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Playoff ranks: Champ. games, Super Bowl

1/19/2011

And then there were four.

Well, four teams, but only three games left in the NFL postseason. Two of the games are pending this weekend, and then, of course, there's the big one in February in Dallas. The top seeds, however, are gone. No more Tom Brady or Matt Ryan. Ray Rice, Michael Turner and the Law Firm are out as well. And we and the Chicago Bears can't kick the Seattle Seahawks around anymore.

You've got one more shot to change your lineups in ESPN's Gridiron Playoff Challenge, and I'd certainly suggest you look into doing so, even if all nine of your selections are still active heading into conference championship weekend. There are entries with perfect lineups, but I'm guessing you're more like me, having relied on at least one member of the New England Patriots or Atlanta Falcons.

So here we go, one last set of postseason rankings. At this point, you really want to concentrate on players that will be playing two games instead of one. This isn't easy to predict, obviously, especially when so many upsets have littered the schedule the past few weeks and home teams haven't been any more likely to win than road teams.

Full disclosure: I think we'll be seeing a lot of green in Dallas, and not just because Jerry Jones is hosting many of the parties. You're maximizing point potential getting more than one game from your players, and you cannot change rosters next week. Here we go!

Quarterbacks

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

2. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

Analysis: I know, I know, Cutler produced four touchdowns Sunday and there's no comparing Roethlisberger and Sanchez by pretty much any normal statistical measure. However, I think the Jets will beat the Steelers. That's two games versus one. Plus, I feel like pointing out that Sanchez outscored Roethlisberger this past weekend. Obviously, the Steelers' defense presents a different challenge than the Patriots did, and it's another road tilt, but I'm going with the kid, and in particular, his team's stifling defense. Brady ended up with 299 passing yards, a nice statistical game even though he didn't look nice doing it, but the truth is I like only one of the four remaining quarterbacks this weekend. And I'll set the over/under on Cutler interceptions at three. But the Packers, they are really good.

Running backs

1. James Starks, Packers

2. Matt Forte, Bears

3. LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets

4. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers

5. Shonn Greene, Jets

6. John Kuhn, Packers

7. Brandon Jackson, Packers

8. Chester Taylor, Bears

9. Mewelde Moore, Steelers

Analysis: Here's where it gets interesting. I think the Packers' defense is at least somewhat susceptible to the running game, though the Eagles and Turner didn't exactly torch them. Starks picked up 25 carries against the Falcons but gained only 66 yards. I expect a better performance against the Bears, with similar touches but more yards. Starks gets the top spot, but I do think Forte is the one Bears player worth risking, win or lose.

In the AFC, Mendenhall seems an obvious choice, and he's easily the most expensive option in the ESPN game. Mendenhall led all running backs with 17 fantasy points this past weekend; I just don't see the Jets allowing him that many. If there was any way to attack the Jets' defense during the regular season, it was definitely through the air, not on the ground. Now I don't think there's a good way. Tomlinson reached double digits in fantasy points this past weekend, one of six running backs to do so. My thinking goes that the Jets would face the Packers, meaning Tomlinson and Greene will get ample work in the big game as well.

Wide receivers

1. Greg Jennings, Packers

2. Santonio Holmes, Jets

3. Braylon Edwards, Jets

4. Mike Wallace, Steelers

5. Hines Ward, Steelers

6. James Jones, Packers

7. Johnny Knox, Bears

8. Donald Driver, Packers

9. Jordy Nelson, Packers

10. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets

11. Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers

12. Earl Bennett, Bears

13. Devin Hester, Bears

14. Brad Smith, Jets

Analysis: Well, I like Jennings a lot, but I also had him ranked first a week ago and he delivered one of the four double-digit fantasy outings from wide receivers. Oddly enough, three of the four were Packers! Rodgers' passing game is so dynamic, even leaving a dome for whatever awaits at Chicago's Soldier Field, four Packers wide receivers rank in the top nine here. I like both Jets starting wide receivers over their opponents for Pittsburgh.

Tight ends

1. Dustin Keller, Jets

2. Greg Olsen, Bears

3. Heath Miller, Steelers

4. Andrew Quarless, Packers

Kickers

1. Mason Crosby, Packers

2. Nick Folk, Jets

3. Shaun Suisham, Steelers

4. Robbie Gould, Bears

Defenses

1. Green Bay Packers

2. New York Jets

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Chicago Bears