Note: Ranked by John Hansen’s projections as of Thursday morning.
Note: These player previews were published on Thursday afternoon. Based on late news, the write-ups and rankings for the following players could change dramatically. Make sure you look for our Sunday morning updates and practice report updates.
1. Ben Roethlisberger (Pit vs. Mia, Sun. 1:05 p.m.)
Last five weeks: 83/136 (63.2%), 1074 yards, 6 TDs, 6 INTs, 8/-8/0 rushing, 19.2 FPG (17th)
Inarguably a top-two fantasy quarterback every time he is in Heinz Field, Roethlisberger has one of the highest passing ceilings in the league when he suits up at home. In six home games this year, Ben Roethlisberger is averaging an absurd 31.2 fantasy points on 319 yards and 3.33 passing touchdowns per game. The story is much different on the road. Big Ben’s per game production (16.3) dips by an uncommon -34.3% on just 238 yards and 1.12 passing scores per day when he goes to face an opponent on the road. We made note of Drew Brees’ home/road splits all year (they eventually evened out), but Roethlisberger’s are unparalleled at this point. Luckily for Big Ben and Co., not only are they playing at home, they are getting Miami at the exact right time. The ‘Fins lone good corner, Byron Maxwell (ankle), has missed two-straight games and will either miss the Wild Card Round entirely or be extremely gimpy. Without Maxwell in the lineup, the Dolphins’ have been ripped to pieces by Tyrod Taylor (329 yards, three touchdowns) and Tom Brady (276 yards, three touchdowns) in Week 16 and 17. This is a green-light spot for the entire Steelers’ offense to go nuts.
Matchup: 5 Current Form: 5 History: 3 Role: 5 Injury status: N/A
2. Aaron Rodgers (GB vs. NYG, Sun. 4:40 p.m.)
Last five weeks: 112/161 (69.6%), 1354 yards, 13 TDs, 0 INTs, 21/84/1 rushing, 26.8 FPG (t-1st)
The NFL’s hottest passer gets his toughest date of the 2016 season here in the Wild Card Round. While Aaron Rodgers has been on another planet for about two months, the Giants’ pass secondary is an equally brutal matchup. The Giants’ ended the 2016 regular season ranked a stout fourth in FootballOutsiders’ Pass Defense metrics and conceded the league’s second-fewest fantasy points per pass attempt on the year (0.34). Only Denver was a worse draw than the New York Giants on a per attempt basis during the regular season. Still, this is Aaron Rodgers at home in the playoffs. Over the past three seasons, Rodgers has averaged 2.67 passing scores per day and 8.2 yards per attempt at home versus 1.88 touchdowns/game and 7.0 YPA on the road. Rodgers’ splits have been a bit closer this year, but there is no denying his hot-streak can overcome any matchup-based qualms we have. Since the Packers were embarrassed in Tennessee in Week 10, Aaron Rodgers has an 18:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he is averaging 288 passing yards/game, and a god-like 9.87 adjusted yards/attempt. In those seven games, Rodgers has 30/143/1 rushing has thrown multiple passing scores in 6-of-7 games. Rodgers’ 7.5% touchdown-rate in that span is the best in the league while his quarterback rating (120.0) only trails Matt Ryan by a nose (120.8).
Matchup: 1 Current Form: 5 History: 3 Role: 5 Injury status: N/A
3. Russell Wilson (Sea vs. Det, Sat. 8:15 p.m.)
Last five weeks: 115/178 (64.6%), 1354 yards, 10 TDs, 7 INTs, 25/100/0 rushing, 23.5 FPG (4th)
While Wilson has been extremely boom-or-bust all season long, there is no denying the ‘Hawks get an amazing Wild Card Round draw to start their playoff run. Detroit has gotten lit up all year long, allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per pass attempt this season while sinking to dead last in FootballOutsiders’ Pass Defense DVOA. What’s more, the Lions’ are on a three-game skid in which they have been set ablaze for multiple passing scores in each contest. Eli Manning had two passing touchdowns versus Detroit in Week 15, while Dak Prescott had three, and Aaron Rodgers had four in Week 17 in Detroit. There is a case to be made for Russell Wilson owning a similar Rodgers- or Ben Roethlisberger-like ceiling here at home versus Detroit. In the fantasy regular season, Russell Wilson finished as the QB2, QB5, QB11, QB4, and QB2 in his last five home games. For what it is worth, Wilson’s weekly finishes in his last five road games in the fantasy regular season (Week 17 excluded) were as follows: QB23, QB25, QB4, QB30, and QB28. Boosting Wilson’s floor and ceiling expectations further, prior to Week 17, Wilson had at least six rush attempts in 4-of-6 contests after only rushing the ball six or more times once in his opening nine games. Wilson’s matchup is arguably the best on the Wild Card slate.
Matchup: 5 Current Form: 4 History: 3 Role: 5 Injury status: N/A
4. Eli Manning (NYG vs. GB, Sun. 4:40 p.m.)
Last five weeks: 116/185 (62.7%), 1125 yards, 6 TDs, 6 INTs, 3/-3/0 rushing, 16.0 FPG (26th)
While Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson easily comprise the top-three quarterbacks in the Wild Card Round, Manning represents the beginning of the lower-end options. On one hand, this is a beautiful spot for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham to absolutely demolish a Packers’ secondary that has been decimated by injuries all season long and may have further issues extending into Sunday. CB Quinten Rollins is in the league’s concussion protocol while CB Damarious Randall (knee) is banged up, but expected to play. Regardless of whether or not Rollins and/or Randall suits up, there is no denying Green Bay is extremely leaky in the back-end. On the four game Wild Card slate, the Packers represent the worst secondary in the following categories: passing touchdown rate (8.5%), adjusted yards per attempt allowed (7.76), passing yards/game allowed (283.1), and fantasy points allowed per attempt. This would be a green-light spot for any above-average passer. The issue is, at no point this season has Eli Manning played even at league average. 2016 marked Eli Manning’s second-worst single-season in touchdown rate (4.3%) and adjusted yards/attempt (6.4) over the past eight years. More recently, Manning has been held at or below 205 passing yards in five of his last six games while playing a fairly easy schedule of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington in that stretch. Manning’s matchup is excellent, but all other ancillary points are subpar.
Matchup: 5 Current Form: 2 History: 2 Role: 5 Injury status: N/A
5. Matt Moore (Mia vs. Pit, Sun. 1:05 p.m.)
Last five weeks: 55/87 (63.2%), 721 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs, 1/-1/0 rushing, 17.0 FPG (24th)
While Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson are all excellent Wild Card options and the enigmatic Eli Manning is a tough riddle to decipher, Moore may go a little over-looked in this week’s decisions. Ryan Tannehill (knee) won’t play against Pittsburgh, leaving Matt Moore under center for his fourth-straight start. Moore has quietly thrown multiple passing scores in three-straight games, while his yardage floor (236, 233, and 205 yards) has been fairly low. Moore and the ‘Fins, too, will likely have to play most if not all over this game from behind as Pittsburgh’s high-powered offense is in a dream-spot against Miami’s struggling defense. The Steelers’ are currently installed as 10-point favorites. Matt Moore has averaged a robust 8.6 adjusted yards/attempt in his three starts and the ‘Fins definitely project to be playing from behind, but this is not really an ideal spot to be contrarian and avoid the big-three if at all possible. The Steelers’ finished the 2016 regular season in the bottom-6 in passing points allowed per attempt while allowing just three season-long fantasy quarterbacks to finish inside of the top-10 scorers against them. Moore and the Miami attack will have to score a ton of points to keep up with Pittsburgh, but indirectly, this matchup probably is a bit stronger than what the general fan would be lead to believe.
Matchup: 3 Current Form: 3 History: N/A Role: 3 Injury status: N/A
6. Matthew Stafford (Det vs. Sea, Sat. 8:15 p.m.)
Last five weeks: 127/203 (62.6%), 1444 yards, 5 TDs, 5 INTs, 10/51/2 rushing, 21.9 FPG (t-8th)
Don’t look now, but Seattle’s pass defense is quietly not as stout as we’re accustomed to. Without Earl Thomas (broken leg), the Seahawks’ pass defense turns into a fairly exploitable unit. Granted, this game is at home in one of the league’s toughest environments play in, but if Matthew Stafford (middle finger injury) were fully healthy this would be a green-light spot for everything involved in this game. In Week 1-11 with Earl Thomas fully healthy, the Seahawks allowed just 6.94 passing yards per attempt (rank: 20th-of-32). Since then, in games Thomas has either missed completely or has left early, Seattle has allowed a robust 7.68 passing yards/attempt – which would be sixth-worst just behind Cleveland (7.70) this year. To be clear, though, Stafford has struggled mightily himself while playing with an injured right middle finger. While playing with an injured middle finger on his throwing hand, Matthew Stafford has averaged 42 pass attempts per game over his last three contests. Stafford averaged 36 attempts/game in Week 1-13. Stafford tossed a touchdown pass on 4.7% of his attempts in Week 1-13 and he has seen his touchdown rate dip to an abysmal 1.6% over his final three regular season games. If Stafford can somehow get healthy enough to get back to his usual ways in Seattle, he could be forced to light the ‘Hawks up. It’s still extremely tough to back an injured quarterback on the road in the playoffs, though.
Matchup: 3 Current Form: 2 History: 3 Role: 5 Injury status: Still dealing with an issue on his right middle finger (throwing hand)
7. Brock Osweiler (Hou vs. Oak, Sat. 4:35 p.m.)
Last five weeks: 63/110 (57.3%), 650 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs, 6/19/1 rushing, 13.1 FPG (30th)
Well, here we go again. B.O. is back. Tom Savage (concussion) is out for Saturday, leaving Osweiler as the starter once more. Try as he may, Houston’s HC Bill O’Brien just can’t seem to get rid of Osweiler. On paper, this is a green-light spot for Brock Osweiler and the Texans’ passing offense. Oakland has been ripped for the sixth-most fantasy points per pass attempt in 2016 and are an unimposing 25th in FootballOutsiders’ Pass Defense metrics. Still, this is Brock Osweiler we’re dealing with here. In Week 1-16, Houston averaged 4.76 yards per offensive play. Only Los Angeles was worse (4.56 yards/play). What’s more, the Texans’ averaged just 0.022 touchdowns per offensive play (last in the league). Osweiler himself finished the regular season second-from-last in adjusted yards/attempt (5.0) with only Jared Goff being worse (4.3 AY/A). While the Texans are at home, the matchup is great, and Osweiler is sure to go low-owned on DFS sites, you are on your own if you want to stray from the big-three plus Manning, Moore, and Stafford for Wild Card Weekend.
Matchup: 4 Current Form: 1 History: 3 Role: 3 Injury status: N/A
8. Connor Cook (Oak vs. Hou, Sat. 4:35 p.m.)
Last five weeks: 14/21 (66.7%), 150 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 0/0/0 rushing, 11.5 FPG (32nd)
We’ll put it this way: It’d take some major marbles to roll out Cook in any format in the Wild Card round. The Raiders are onto their third-string quarterback in a cruel twist of fate this year, as Derek Carr (broken leg) is on the shelf until the 2017 season and Matt McGloin (shoulder) is incredibly questionable to even suit up in the Wild Card round after getting smashed into the turf in a big hit in Denver. Connor Cook proceeded to come in after McGloin and look like, well, Connor Cook. This is simply a brutal spot for a rookie to be making his first professional start, as Houston has really stepped on defense in a big way despite their poor offense. Not only are the Texans’ a very strong fifth in FootballOutsiders’ Pass Defense DVOA metrics, they are last – by far – in passing yards/game allowed (218.3) on the eight-team slate. Even though Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper form one of the league’s best receiver tandems and can elevate this entire passing offense, Cook can be safely ignored in all Wild Card fantasy decisions.
Matchup: 2 Current Form: N/A History: N/A Role: 2 Injury status: N/A