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NFL Playoff Challenge: Week 3 staff picks

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Michael Fabiano: Remember when the Death Star blew up Alderaan in Star Wars IV: A New Hope? Now, picture that my Playoff Challenge team is Alderaan. Yup, it got blown up in the divisional round. I lost all of my Broncos, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and Rob Gronkowski, so I have to start all over again. So rather than lament the past, I'm going to try to score as many points as I can in the final two weeks. And no, I'm not starting Tom Brady - I'm going with Kaepernick (if you follow me on Twitter, you're not surprised). I have started four 49ers total including Gore, Crabtree (who is on fire) and their team defense. On the New England side of things, I'm going with Ridley, Welker, Hernandez (I can't start Vernon Davis) and Gostkowski. So if the Falcons and Ravens put up surprising conference weekend wins, well, I'll see you back here next week!

Marcas Grant: Okay, so that didn't work. My lineup tumbled like a Jenga tower after shocking losses by the Broncos and Seahawks. Even when the ones I got right went wrong (Rob Gronkowski, ugh!). So now I'm left to regroup by going with the two teams I think have the best chance to make the Super Bowl -- the Patriots and the 49ers. I'm with Colin Kaepernick because of dual-threat capability and Michael Crabtree because he's become Kaepernick's favorite target. And I'm taking the Niners defense because ... it's the Niners defense.

Elliot Harrison: Well, my Perfect Challenge team took a hit last weekend. A hit, you know, like the one Lance Armstrong allegedly threatened on anyone who even suggested he even so much as took an extra Flinstone vitamin over the years. A hit, like losing your ENTIRE Playoff Challenge lineup over one weekend. Denver Broncos, Marshawn Lynch, Greg Jennings, and Rob Gronkowski...sit down. Couldn't the fantasy gods have at least given me Gronkowski? After Belichick made me lose in the fantasy semifinals on that pull-Brady-off-the-field-send-in-Gostkowski thing? (I hope Armstrong isn't a Pats fan, or I might get a trident in the back.) So here's what I'm doing...I'm going with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback (rushing versus poor Falcons run defense), Stevan Ridley and Frank Gore at running back (because their teams will win). I used more of the same reasoning in taking Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree at wide receiver, Aaron Hernandez to replace Gronk at tight end, the 49ers defense and Stephen Gostowski. David Akers had to beat out Billy Cundiff to keep his job. Ironic, considering the latter helped all of you who played Patriots in the Playoff Challenge last year (ahem, Jason Smith) by missing in the AFC Championship Game.

Adam Rank: Well, my plan worked. I wanted to jinx the Broncos so I picked a majority of them the last two weeks and my evil plan worked. Just kidding. Even as somebody who has little-to-no faith in Peyton Manning in the playoffs, a defeat against the Ravens was kind of unexpected. Even the multiple double points from the Broncos D didn't help. Well, this week I'm just going to go with Kaepernick here, though it would have been cooler with double points, which I will hope for in the Super Bowl. I split the two running backs from the AFC title game so I know I will get at least double points from one of my RBs in the Super Bowl. And I'm confident at least Crabtree will be there. I feel like I should have a member of the Falcons. But I just don't have a lot of faith in them.

Jason Smith: After two weeks, my strategy of loading up on everyone from one team is working, and just like last year, as long as New England keeps winning, I'll reel everyone else in and pass them. Yet, there is a slight dark side. All I can do is shake my head that my entire team moved on in the PC, and yet I may have lost two players. With Rob Gronkowski done for the season, I'm going to replace him with Aaron Hernandez this week (and hopefully beyond). It figures the one player I DIDN'T pick for New England, Shane Vereen, goes absolutely nuts after Danny Woodhead (who I did pick) got hurt early on against the Texans. I'm going to wait as long as I possibly can before deciding on my RB2 - likely right up until game-time. It's not like Vereen was unleashed by New England, he simply got the snaps and touches that normally would have gone Woodhead's way. If Woodhead is healthy, I'm pretty confident in keeping him in my RB2 slot. Not only will I get triple points for him (compared to single points if I changed to Vereen), but I'm pretty sure he'll have his normal responsibility - again, as long as he's healthy. So using a mantra we talk about all the time in the regular season for fantasy: if he plays for his NFL team he plays for your fantasy team. If Woodhead doesn't go, then it'll be Vereen.


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