Picks for NFL.com Fantasy Playoff Challenge
Tom Brady (NE): Brady isn't playing in the first round, but you'll be guaranteed a 2x bonus for the Divisional Round in New England, when he'll likely face either the struggling Texans, or a Ravens team that has been very mediocre on the road this season. The most popular quarterback on NFL.com is Aaron Rodgers, and while I think I like him to beat the Vikings this week, he did just lose to them less than a week ago, and would face the 49ers in San Francisco if the Packers advanced. Right now, I like the Patriots chances of going farther in the playoffs and Brady putting up huge numbers along the way.
Adrian Peterson (MIN): The Vikings will likely have a hard time making it past the Packers, but I think it's safe to roll the dice on Peterson anyway, as he racked up 409 rushing yards and three total touchdowns in two games against Green Bay this season. If the Vikings do advance, they'll face the 49ers, who haven't been the same against the run since losing Justin Smith, whose status is very unsure for the Divisional Round.
Marshawn Lynch (SEA): Lynch was given the task of carrying the Seahawks' offense to the playoffs this year, and he succeeded, piling up 99.4 rushing yards per game and scoring 12 total touchdowns. He'll face a Redskins team that is average against the run on a per carry basis, and the Seahawks have a solid shot at beating them. If they advance, they'll either play the Falcons (29th in opponent yards per carry) or the 49ers (Lynch ran for 111 yards and two total touchdowns against them two weeks ago).
Andre Johnson (HOU): Johnson got out to a bit of a disappointing start this season, but finished on an absolute tear, reaching 95+ receiving yards in six of his final seven games. The Bengals boast a strong pass defense, but no one has really been able to stop Johnson over the past two months. With the Texans favored in this matchup, you could be in for a 2x bonus in the Divisional Round by grabbing one of the game's elite receivers this week.
Demaryius Thomas (DEN): Thomas has become Peyton Manning's unquestioned top man in Denver, and he finished the season incredibly strong. He's topped 80 yards in five of his past six games, topping 100 in the past two (with a touchdown in each). He won't play in this round, but I think the Broncos are almost a lock to make it to the AFC Championship, when Thomas will have a nice 3x bonus. With home-field advantage, Thomas also has a pretty decent chance of getting that coveted 4x bonus in the Super Bowl.
Rob Gronkowski (NE): He's another guy with a first round bye, but he is far and away the best fantasy tight end when he's on the field. Gronk scored the fourth most fantasy points among tight ends this season despite missing five games (about a third of the season). He'll be a beast, and with the Patriots likely to make a deep playoff run, he'll be worth the week of no points once he's racking up touchdowns multiplied by two, three, or maybe even four.
You should probably just pick the kicker you think is most likely to make it to the Super Bowl. Kickers are always kind of a crapshoot, so if you go with a guy who will be around in the later rounds, those three point field goals will turn into nine or twelve point scores. It's also good to consider kickers who play in domes, like Matt Bryant (ATL). A guy like Mason Crosby, who will be kicking into the elements up in Lambeau, may not get many attempts if the weather is harsh.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks defense is the best of all the playoff teams, and they'll have starting cornerback Brandon Browner returning from suspension for the Wild Card Round. Ranked 1st in points allowed with the potential to play four games, I like the Seahawks as my fantasy playoff defense.