INDIANAPOLIS --- Welcome to round two of the NFL.com Playoff Challenge. If you missed last week, click here, for a refresher on the format. If you picked a bunch of players that were on a bye last week, this is your week to cash in, as those players' points are now eligible for a 2x bonus (and a 3x bonus next week if they win). If you picked players whose teams lost last week, then your goal is still the same. Fill in your lineup with players this week that you think will win, generating a 2x bonus next week.
Here is my lineup this week, after only losing Steelers WR Antonio Brown last week:
QB - Andrew Luck (Colts, 2x bonus)
RB - Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks, 2x bonus)
RB - Daniel "Boom Herron (Colts, 2x bonus)
WR - T.Y. Hilton (Colts, 2x bonus)
WR - Randall Cobb (Packers)
TE - Rob Gronkowski (Patriots, 2x bonus)
K - Steven Hauschka (Seahawks, 2x bonus)
DEF - Seahawks (2x bonus)
Essentially, I loaded up on Colts because I was uber confident they'd beat the Bengals last week and give me the bonus points this week. I felt the Seahawks would wind up facing the Panthers too, triggering a 2x bonus this week, and I think Seattle wins to give me a 3x bonus next week.
You might be wondering about the Randall Cobb pick. I needed a receiver after losing Antonio Brown. I wanted a player that wasn't going to be widely used in the contest but still have upside. Dez Bryant (61%), Jordy Nelson (37%), and Demaryius Thomas (27%) weren't worth it to me, because even if they do well, it won't help move me up the standings with so many people using them. Julian Edelman was the next on the list at 8% usage, but the Playoff Challenge is not PPR. That takes a lot of upside away from Edelman, and I already have Gronkowski. Cobb is only being used in 5% of lineups. He was the 7th ranked WR in standard scoring this year, and has averaged 102.3 yards per game in his last three games, coming off a 2 touchdown day week 17. You saw the Lions beat the Cowboys secondary last week with their #2 WR in Golden Tate for 89 yards and a touchdown. Tate was even targeted more than Calvin Johnson. I expect the Cowboys defense to give that kind of attention to Jordy Nelson, making Cobb a potential big beneficiary.
Here are my overall top-5 rankings this week for each position with a sleeper at each spot for those playing Daily/One Day Fantasy Football:
Andrew Luck (#1 fantasy QB all year, no reason to change it now)
Peyton Manning (3 TDs, 6 INT last 4 games)
Sleeper: Joe Flacco - Flacco just has an illogically high success rate in the postseason. 18 points last week, despite finishing as the #13 QB in the regular season. In 2012, 22 fantasy points at New England in the AFC Championship game. In 2011, 21 fantasy points at New England in the postseason as well.
Dan "Boom" Herron (141 total yards & 22 touches last week, optimistic he gets full workload again)
Sleeper: Shane Vereen - He has almost literally done nothing since week 13. I know, but the Ravens run defense is really good. It feels like this is more of a Vereen game than Blount/Gray game. Baltimore was 4th against the run this year, and that was despite playing four games without Haloti Ngata. Against top-10 run defenses this year, here are Vereen's games:
Week 7 vs. NYJ: 114 total yards, 2 TD
Week 9 vs. DEN: 67 total yards, TD
Week 12 vs. DET: 60 total yards
Week 16 vs. NYJ: 50 total yards
Sleeper: Ravens WR Torrey Smith, as it sounds like Darrelle Revis will be on Steve Smith. And Donte Moncrief, because #FeedMoncrief.
Sleeper: Dwayne Allen - He played 66 of 77 snaps against the Bengals. He's being called upon to block in many of those snaps, but his value in the redzone can't be overstated. He also had a 41-yard touchdown against the Broncos week 1.
(I think Colts and Broncos will be a shootout. I'd prefer to stay away from their defenses for fantasy.That's why the Panthers crack the top-5, because I think it will be low scoring, but you should be picking one of those top four.)