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NFL Playoff Challenge: Wild Card round review


Fantasy football owners have always been told to stick with their studs, and that advice was heeded in the first round of the NFL Playoff Challenge. The most popular starting lineup for Wild Card weekend was loaded with statistical superstars, including Aaron Rodgers (58 percent), Adrian Peterson (65 percent), Marshawn Lynch (40 percent), Andre Johnson (51 percent), A.J. Green (39 percent), Owen Daniels (28 percent), Blair Walsh (37 percent) and the Seahawks defense (45 percent).

The most productive starting lineup (sans the running back position), was quite different, however. Here's a look at the ultimate cast of characters for fantasy's Wild Card round.

Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens (19 points): Flacco, who was active in one percent of Playoff Challenge leagues, tied Russell Wilson for the points lead among quarterbacks. Amazingly, Flacco put up a nice stat line with a mere 12 completions - it helped that he averaged over 23 yards on those completions. Wilson, who threw for just 187 yards but rushed for another 67 in a 24-14 win over the Washington Redskins, is the better of the two fantasy options if we're looking long-term in the postseason.

Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (23 points): One of the top three players in fantasy football at the running back position, Foster was active in 39 percent of leagues during Wild Card weekend. He rewarded owners who started him against the Cincinnati Bengals with 140 yards on the ground and one score in a 19-13 win. The New England Patriots are up next on the schedule, and while the Texans will be the clear underdogs, it will be pretty tough to sit Foster if you started him in the Wild Card round.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks (17 points): Lynch has emerged into an absolute beast (no pun intended) in the last two seasons, both on the field and from a fantasy perspective. He showcased his skills against the Redskins, rushing for 132 yards on 20 carries with one touchdown. Active in 40 percent of Playoff Challenge leagues in Wild Card weekend, Lynch is now eligible to receive double points (if you started him) in the Divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons and their vulnerable run defense.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens (20 points): In a weekend that saw wideouts like Andre Johnson, Green and Greg Jennings in action, it was a bit of a surprise to see Boldin lead the position in fantasy points. Active in just one percent of Playoff Challenge leagues, the veteran out of Florida State caught five passes for 145 yards and scored one touchdown in a win over the Indianapolis Colts. Regardless of his performance, it's going to be tough to start Boldin again in a road game in the Mile High City.

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Michael Jenkins, WR, Minnesota Vikings (15 points): I can say with confidence that Jenkins' name was not on the minds of fantasy leaguers when setting their Playoff Challenge lineups. Still, he put up 96 yards, one touchdown and 15 fantasy points against the Green Bay Packers. What's more, Jenkins was one of just three wideouts to score double digits in the round. Active in 0 percent of Playoff Challenge leagues, Jenkins will remain an afterthought in fantasy land as the Vikings were knocked out of the postseason.

Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans (9 points): Active in 28 percent of Playoff Challenge leagues in the Wild Card round, Daniels went off for nine catches and 91 yards in a win over the Bengals. The question now is, should owners who started Daniels stick with him against the Patriots? Well, that depends on whether or not you think the Texans have a shot to win at Gillette Stadium. Regardless, Rob Gronkowski is likely to be the most active tight end in the Playoff Challenge for as long as the Patriots are alive.

Shayne Graham, K, Houston Texans (13 points): Graham, who re-emerged into one of the 10 best kickers in fantasy football this season, led the position in points during Wild Card weekend on the back of his four field-goal conversions. Graham, whose longest field goal was 48 yards, was active in just 10 percent of Playoff Challenge leagues. He's worth starting again because you'll receive double points in the Divisional round, but it will be tough for the Texans to outlast the Patriots next weekend.

Green Bay Packers defense (18 points): Four different defenses scored 12-plus fantasy points in the Wild Card round, but the Packers were the best of the bunch. Started in just five percent of Playoff Challenge leagues, Green Bay scored an impressive 18 points in a win over the Vikings. A perennial favorite to reach the Super Bowl out of the NFC, owners who started the Packers defense should keep it active in the Divisional round against the San Francisco 49ers to receive the double-point reward.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!