I'm not sure there has ever been a more exciting divisional round of the NFL postseason. Between the drama in Denver, the heroics of Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and the two comebacks in the Georgia Dome, it's hard to argue with the level of excitement that encompassed the NFL world.
Of course, the weekend also caused a lot of NFL Playoff Challenge teams to explode like the planet of Alderaan in Star Wars (Rob Gronkowski, anyone?) The most popular starting lineup for the divisional weekend was loaded with statistical superstars, including Aaron Rodgers (52 percent), Marshawn Lynch (63 percent), Arian Foster (54 percent), Andre Johnson (51 percent), Demaryius Thomas (32 percent), Rob Gronkowski (39 percent), Matt Prater (20 percent) and the Seahawks defense (45 percent). Unfortunately, none of those players will be available for the next round.
The most productive starting lineup wasn't what we all expected heading into the weekend, but that's no shock in the unpredictable National Football League. Here's a look at the ultimate cast of characters for fantasy's divisional round.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers (46 points): Kaepernick made a major statement against the Packers, throwing for 263 yards, rushing for a record 181 yards and scoring four total touchdowns. With so many big-name quarterbacks alive in the round, though, Kaepernick was active in a mere one percent of Playoff Challenge leagues. That percentage will rise a ton in the conference championship week, as the 49ers now seem to be the proverbial favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVII.
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots (30 points): If you saw this performance coming, well, can you please send me the lottery numbers for the week? Vereen, who was active in zero percent of leagues, went off for 41 rushing yards, 83 receiving yards and three total touchdowns in a win over the Houston Texans. I'm not so sure he can duplicate such a performance ever again, but fantasy leaguers who like the Patriots to go to the Super Bowl might have to consider using him this weekend against the Ravens.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans (27 points): The best running back in fantasy football, at least in the opinion of this humble writer, totaled 153 scrimmage yards and scored a pair of touchdowns in a loss to the Patriots. He was a productive option in the Playoff Challenge over the first two weeks, especially if you started him in the wild-card round and received double points in the divisional round. Unfortunately, Foster is no longer an option now that his team has been eliminated from contention.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers (23 points): In the final four weeks of the regular season, Crabtree was the highest-scoring wideout based on fantasy points. He continued his recent assault on the stat sheets in the postseason, catching nine passes for 119 yards with two touchdowns against the Pack. Considering his developing rapport with Kaepernick, not to mention being on a team that is considered a Super Bowl favorite, I expect Crabtree to be active in a lot of Playoff Challenge leagues.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens (21 points): Smith might have caught just three passes against the Broncos and CB Champ Bailey, but he sure made them count. The talented wideout caught touchdown passes of 59 and 32 yards from Joe Flacco and finished with 98 yards and the two scores. Though inconsistent for much of the season, Smith is now in a position to be a potential Playoff Challenge starter -- that is, if you think the Ravens can go into Gillette Stadium and the beat the Patriots this week.
Zach Miller, TE, Seattle Seahawks (20 points): Most owners went with Gronkowski at tight end, but he re-injured his forearm and will miss the remainder of the postseason (hello, Aaron Hernandez). The weekend's top tight end was Miller, who caught eight passes for 142 yards and scored one touchdown in the last-second loss to Atlanta. While Miller is no longer an option for the Playoff Challenge, he did have a very nice end to the season and could be back on the fantasy radar for 2013 drafts.
Matt Bryant, K, Atlanta Falcons (12 points): Bryant was the hero of the day in Atlanta, as he nailed a 49-yard field goal late to put the Falcons into the NFC Championship Game. Overall, Bryant kicked three field goals (39, 37, 49) and scored one more fantasy point than Stephen Gostkowski at the position. If you were part of the three percent of owners who actually started Bryant in the Playoff Challenge, well, pat yourself on the back and get ready for a nice points reward in the next round.
Baltimore Ravens defense (16 points): How can a unit that allowed 35 points be the top-scoring defense? Well, combine a pair of interceptions with three sacks and a pick-six from CB Corey Graham and you have a pretty nice stat line. The Ravens were started in 10 percent of Playoff Challenge leagues, so at least some owners will receive a points bonus. If you don't believe the Ravens can go into Foxboro and defeat the Patriots, however, using the Niners' or Patriots' defense makes sense this weekend.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com 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!