Joe Flacco was able to successfully escape pass pressure in the wild-card round at Kansas City, but Pittsburgh can bring even more of a furious attack this week and will prevent Flacco from getting into a consistent rhythm by hitting him often. When Flacco does complete passes, look for him to utilize trusted veterans Derrick Mason and Todd Heap. The Baltimore TE will not be as productive as he was last week, but will still be a solid fantasy option. Anquan Boldin has been statistically erratic this season, and after scoring last week, he should get a lot of defensive attention in this game, and Flacco will complete passes to Mason more frequently. If you used Ray Rice in the wild-card round in the NFL.com Playoff Challenge, do not hesitate to use him again, as the Ravens will have to get the ball in Rice's hands often to ease pressure on Flacco.
The Ravens defense faces a more balanced offense than they did last week, and will not perform as well as a unit for fantasy purposes. Ben Roethlisberger will be fresh after a week off and will not hesitate to challenge the Baltimore secondary. Expect more than one TD pass, yet also more than one interception. Mike Wallace can burn the Ravens deep even if they focus heavily on him, and Hines Ward is the veteran type who can be a very useful target in key postseason games. The Steelers will move the ball well enough to put Rashard Mendenhall in position for a short TD run or two, and the Pittsburgh RB is a quality fantasy choice even if he finishes below the 100-yard mark.
The Falcons secondary enters the postseason up to the task of handling the Green Bay wide receivers, but Aaron Rodgers is playing so well, he must be carried over from the divisional round regardless of matchup. It's unlikely that Greg Jennings can be held in check two games in a row, and should be carried forth as well. Donald Driver is an adequate choice also, as trusted, proven pass-catchers are often safe fantasy playoff selections. James Starks showed upside again in the wild-card round, yet still has a lot to prove and is a risky pick, as the Atlanta defensive line can get much better penetration than Philadelphia's unit did last week.
Matt Ryan will have to be careful facing the Green Bay secondary, and will not provide fantasy players with better than adequate totals. Roddy White is a top start against any opponent, and Tony Gonzalez should provide decent numbers on underneath routes. If Ryan throws one TD pass it will likely be to White. The Packers are somewhat banged up on the front seven, yet not enough to prevent them from playing at a high level against Michael Turner, who may be in for a disappointing week. The Packers defensive line can quickly close down openings and stuff Turner frequently.
The Seahawks will have difficulty establishing Marshawn Lynch against the Bears front seven, and do not get lost in the din of the Seattle RB's historic run last week. You can make better selections in the NFL.com Playoff Challenge. The Chicago defensive ends will crush the pocket and the Seahawks offensive line will not look nearly as good as it did last week. Matt Hasselbeck is a risky start, and Mike Williams will not perform as hoped in terms of yardage and TD chances.
Jay Cutler is not the fantasy playoff lock he appears to be. If Seattle can generate pass pressure like it did last week, and the defensive backs can use physical approaches to take the WRs out of their routes, this could be a close, lower-scoring affair. Cutler is in danger of being a disappointment in the postseason atmosphere. Johnny Knox could still get loose for a deep score at any time, though, and Earl Bennett has sleeper potential in larger playoff leagues. Matt Forte is now a focal point of the Chicago offense, and will deliver solid all-around fantasy totals.
The Jets obviously want to run the ball to take pressure off Mark Sanchez and control time of possession. Do not be afraid to carry over LaDainian Tomlinson from the last round, as he is looking somewhat rejuvenated for the postseason push. Shonn Greene has the bounce and elusiveness necessary to keep the Jets in this game and produce quality fantasy numbers this week. Mark Sanchez should not be started, yet will take selective shots against the New England secondary and will make enough key plays to justify using Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards in larger playoff leagues.
The Jets may have difficulty pressuring the passer, and that is bad news against Tom Brady, who deserves the seemingly default lineup slot he will get on many fantasy playoff rosters this week. The presence of Darrelle Revis makes Wes Welker a less attractive start, and Deion Branch and Rob Gronkowski will be more productive targets, even if Welker is not matched up exclusively against Revis for the entire game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a great start against any opponent, as he is a regular finisher on many New England scoring drives, and Danny Woodhead would like nothing better than to singe his former team on the playoff stage.
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