The majority of the top wide receivers in this year's playoffs are on teams from the NFC. When it comes to AFC wideouts, Wes Welker might be the only sure thing around. Is there another receiver on an AFC team you'd feel comfortable riding with?
If I can't go with Welker, I'll roll with Mike Wallace. People talk about him having a down season, but he still put up the ninth-most fantasy points among wide receivers. He's also a major playmaker in the pass attack for Ben Roethlisberger, especially in the vertical game. Sure, Wallace is losing targets to Antonio Brown, but I still see him as the top wideout in the Steel City. I also think the Steelers are one of the few postseason teams with a legitimate chance to play in four consecutive rounds -- ending with a berth in the Super Bowl. Picking productive players whose teams will last the longest is the key to success in the NFL Playoff Challenge, so I think Wallace is a nice option in wild-card weekend and beyond.
Antonio Brown fits the bill, if you believe the Steelers have a good shot at getting to the AFC title game. This weekend, Mike Wallace figures to get more attention from shutdown Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey than Brown does. In the divisional and championship rounds, Brown would likely face the Ravens and Patriots, both of whom he has had success against this season.
There absolutely is another receiver I like in the AFC: Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sixburgh should be able to handle Denver, then go up to New England and win. That means you'll probably get three games out of Wallace. Moreover, the Patriots secondary has been the victim of general sucking for weeks now. Wallace should have a big game against them. With Rashard Mendenhall's injury, the Steelers might find themselves having to lean more on the passing game and less on the ground attack in the postseason. Wallace is a solid play.
I've already added Mike Wallace to my Playoff Challenge roster, because the Steelers are going to make a long march in the playoffs. That's the key. People are mesmerized by thoughts of getting double points from Jordy Nelson or some of the players participating in the first round. But I'll also get double points from Wallace, in rounds one and two. If the Steelers see the Patriots in the second round, Wallace is going to be a huge boon for my squad. BTW, if you would like to compete against me, I have set up my own league for you to join. Check it out right here.
- Jason SmithNFL.com
If I'm all in on New England, I have to stick with New England's wide receivers, because I know the two guys who are going to get most of the catches: Wes Welker and Deion Branch. Thanks to his chemistry with Tom Brady, Branch has made a career out of playing well in the postseason. Do you know who's going to get most of the catches in Green Bay or New Orleans? If you do, you're a mind-reader and should invest in some tarot cards. Sure, I'd love to pair red-hot Aaron Hernandez in the wide receiver slot with Welker, but I can't, so Branch is the next best thing (and I'm not sitting Rob Gronkowski, of course). New England is going to score 35 points per week, and I'm okay with gambling that Hernandez won't blow up while I'm not playing him.
When I look at the possibility of getting double points from Jordy Nelson in the divisional round or think of Calvin Johnson against the Saints on the fast track, I'm hard-pressed to consider any other options, including Wes Welker. However, if you want to steer clear of what the rest of the fantasy players are doing, Mike Wallace is an interesting play. He'll go against Denver, which has a defense that allowed the 10th-most points to wide receivers, followed potentially by the Patriots, who allowed the most points to wide receivers. As I write this, I'm now seriously considering going with Wallace and waiting for Week 2 to get in on Nelson as a replacement for Calvin Johnson, whose Lions will be bounced by the Saints.
The drop-off from Wes Welker to any other wide receiver that produces with any level of consistency in the AFC is pretty steep. But it comes down to a pair of Steelers -- Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Given the choice, we're going to see what Brown can do for us. Over the past seven weeks of the season, he's been Pittsburgh's big-play receiver, averaging more than 20 yards per catch. He's scored just one touchdown during that stretch, but Wallace has scored just twice, making the difference nearly a wash. Plus, Wallace likely will be facing off against Champ Bailey quite a bit on Sunday, and good luck with that. If Pittsburgh can dispatch Denver, and Houston takes down Cincinnati, we have to like Brown against the Patriots the following week.