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Playoff Extra: Championship Round Rankings

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There are plenty of great storylines for the AFC and NFC Championship Games -- and plenty of points to be had for Fantasy owners. It should make for another fun day of playoff action.

In the AFC, Tom Brady is trying to get back to the Super Bowl for the sixth time. He will have to get by the Ravens without tight end Rob Gronkowski (broken forearm), and standing in his way is linebacker Ray Lewis, who will retire once Baltimore is eliminated.

In the NFC, San Francisco travels to Atlanta, and the Falcons just won their first playoff game in the Matt Ryan era. 49ers second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick is making his first road playoff start, and we'll find out how he does under pressure.

There's a lot of potential for high-scoring games in the Championship Round since the four games in the Divisional Round averaged 69 points. And as we know, the more points the better for Fantasy owners who are still alive in any Playoff Challenge.

Editor's note: The units listed after each player's name is the value assigned to each player in the CBSSports.com Playoff Challenge.

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Quarterbacks

1. Tom Brady, Patriots -- 81 units
2. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers -- 62 units
3. Matt Ryan, Falcons -- 74 units
4. Joe Flacco, Ravens -- 61 units

The last time Brady faced the Ravens in Week 3 he had 335 passing yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. In the AFC Championship Game last year, Brady was held to 239 passing yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions with a rushing score. Baltimore has only allowed two quarterbacks to score more than 15 Fantasy points since Week 10, which was Robert Griffin III (27 points) in Week 14 and Peyton Manning (23 points) last week. Still, we have faith in Brady in a big game at home. ... Kaepernick also has a tough matchup on the road. The Falcons have only allowed three quarterbacks to top 20 Fantasy points this year, which was Cam Newton twice, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson last week. Kaepernick is coming off a monster outing against the Packers with 263 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception and 16 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns. He could easily have a similar game to Wilson, who had 385 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception and seven carries for 60 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons focused on stopping Marshawn Lynch, and Wilson carried the offense to a near upset. Kaepernick would benefit greatly if Falcons defensive end John Abraham (ankle) was out. ... Ryan played well against the Seahawks with 250 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions and now has at least 23 Fantasy points in four of his past five outings. The 49ers have struggled of late with three of their past four opposing quarterbacks scoring at least 22 Fantasy points, and Ryan should be able to make plays down the field to Roddy White and Julio Jones. ... Flacco is playing great with 613 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in two playoff victories. He has at least 18 Fantasy points in seven of his past 10 games. More importantly, he has nine touchdowns, one interception and at least 250 passing yards in the four full games he played with Jim Caldwell as the offensive coordinator. He also has a good history against the Patriots. In Week 3 of this year, Flacco had 382 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception. And in the AFC Championship Game last year he had 306 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception and 27 rushing yards. All four of these quarterbacks have the chance for stellar stat lines.

Running Backs

1. Frank Gore, 49ers -- 59 units
2. Ray Rice, Ravens -- 65 units
3. Stevan Ridley, Patriots -- 63 units
4. Shane Vereen, Patriots -- 24 units
5. Michael Turner, Falcons -- 54 units
6. Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons -- 41 units
7. Danny Woodhead, Patriots -- 35 units
8. Bernard Pierce, Ravens -- 24 units
9. LaMichael James, 49ers -- 9 units
10. Vonta Leach, Ravens -- 4 units
11. Anthony Dixon, 49ers -- 3 units
12. Jason Snelling, Falcons -- 10 units

Gore ran over the Packers last week with 23 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 48 yards. He now has double digits in Fantasy points in seven of his past eight games. Atlanta, despite trying to limit Lynch, still allowed him to get 13 Fantasy points, and the Falcons have allowed a running back to score in eight of their past nine games. ... Rice re-established himself last week at Denver with Pierce dealing with a knee injury. He had 30 carries for 131 yards and a touchdown, and he should be ready for his rematch with the Patriots. In Week 3, Rice had 20 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown and five catches for 49 yards, and he's capable of a repeat performance. Since Week 12, the Patriots have allowed five opposing running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points, including Arian Foster in the Divisional Round last week. Pierce is expected to play, but his snaps could be limited with the Ravens likely leaning on Rice. ... The Ridley-Vereen combination is intriguing because how you view the game will determine who you think will do well, including Woodhead if he's healthy enough to play with a thumb injury. If the Patriots go ahead early in the game then Ridley has the chance to kill the clock. He struggled against the Ravens in Week 3 with 13 carries for 37 yards, but he has double digits in Fantasy points in five of his past seven games, including the playoff victory against the Texans last week. But if the Patriots trail at all then Vereen/Woodhead will see increased time, and we expect Vereen to get more playing time after he scored three touchdowns against the Texans. The Ravens have allowed four of their past six opposing running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points, including Ronnie Hillman last week. ... Turner and Rodgers came up big for the Falcons in their playoff victory against the Seahawks. Turner had 14 carries for 98 yards, and Rodgers had 10 carries for 64 yards. They could have some running room since San Francisco has been vulnerable to opposing running backs of late with Woodhead, Lynch and DuJuan Harris all reaching double digits in Fantasy points against the 49ers in three of their past four games. Turner also has a touchdown in seven of nine games at home this year, including the playoffs.

Wide Receivers

1. Wes Welker, Patriots -- 48 units
2. Roddy White, Falcons -- 46 units
3. Michael Crabtree, 49ers -- 37 units
4. Julio Jones, Falcons -- 45 units
5. Torrey Smith, Ravens -- 36 units
6. Anquan Boldin, Ravens -- 29 units
7. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots -- 39 units
8. Jacoby Jones, Ravens -- 9 units
9. Randy Moss, 49ers -- 23 units
10. Harry Douglas, Falcons -- 5 units
11. Deion Branch, Patriots -- 10 units
12. Tandon Doss, Ravens -- 1 unit

Welker is coming off a dominant game against the Texans last week with eight catches for 131 yards. It was the eighth time this season he caught at least eight passes, and he reached double digits in Fantasy points for the ninth time. In Week 3 at Baltimore, Welker had eight catches for 142 yards on 10 targets, and he has registered double digits in targets 12 times this season. He should again remain involved with Gronkowski out. The Ravens have allowed a receiver to score or gain 100 yards in each of their past six games. ... Lloyd will also benefit with Gronkowski out. He had five catches for 32 yards and a touchdown against the Texans last week, and he did well against Baltimore in Week 3 with nine catches for 108 yards on 12 targets. The first time Gronkowski was out, Lloyd did well for two games against Houston in Week 14 and San Francisco in Week 15 with 16 catches for 252 yards on 28 targets. He is a nice sleeper this week. ... The way Crabtree has closed the season has been remarkable. He had nine catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers last week, which gives him three games with multiple scores in his past four outings. He ended the season with at least nine Fantasy points in eight of his past 10 games, including the playoffs. And Atlanta has allowed a receiver to reach double digits in Fantasy points in each of the past three games. ... White and Jones both played well last week against the Seahawks. White had five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, while Jones had six catches for 59 yards. The reason we like White better is his production at home. He has double digits in Fantasy points in six of nine home games this season. Jones, meanwhile, has reached double digits in Fantasy points at home in just two games. Still, both have the chance to play well since the 49ers have allowed at least one receiver to reach double digits in Fantasy points in each of their past four games. ... The last time Smith faced the Patriots in Week 3 it was an emotional game for him following the death of his brother. He had a tremendous outing with six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns on 10 targets. He had another two-touchdown game against the Broncos last week, and the Patriots have struggled with receivers all year, including six receivers scoring at least nine Fantasy points in the past five games. That bodes well for Boldin also, and he has been playing well of late. He has at least seven Fantasy points in five of his past six games, and he has 18 targets through two playoff games.

Tight Ends

1. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots -- 37 units
2. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons -- 39 units
3. Dennis Pitta, Ravens -- 32 units
4. Delanie Walker, 49ers -- 16 units
5. Vernon Davis, 49ers -- 15 units
6. Ed Dickson, Ravens -- 4 units

Hernandez missed the first meeting against Baltimore in Week 3 with an ankle injury, but he had seven catches for 66 yards in the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens last year. He is coming off a solid outing against the Texans last week with six catches for 85 yards on nine targets, and we expect Brady to rely on him once again with Gronkowski out. This is a tough matchup since Baltimore has allowed just one tight end to reach double digits in Fantasy points since Week 7, but Hernandez still has the chance to shine. ... Gonzalez finally won the first playoff game in his 16-year career, and he played a prominent role with six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. He's trying to reach his first Super Bowl, and he could have some success against a 49ers defense that has allowed eight touchdowns to opposing tight ends this year. ... Pitta was held in check by the Broncos last week with just three catches for 55 yards, but he could rebound in this matchup. The Patriots just allowed Owen Daniels to catch nine passes for 81 yards, and eight tight ends have scored against New England this season. Dickerson should only be used in a desperation situation. ... Once again we'll stick with Walker over Davis. Both were disappointing against the Packers last week, with Walker catching one pass for 17 yards and Davis catching one pass for 44 yards. Going back to Week 12, Walker has 35 Fantasy points compared to eight for Davis. The good thing for both is the Falcons just got abused by Zach Miller for eight catches, 142 yards and one touchdown.

Kickers

1. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots -- 32 units
2. Matt Bryant, Falcons -- 30 units
3. David Akers, 49ers -- 30 units
4. Justin Tucker, Ravens -- 27 units

Defense/Special Teams

1. 49ers -- 37 units
2. Ravens -- 30 units
3. Patriots -- 35 units
4. Falcons -- 30 units

My Championship Round lineup

QB: Colin Kaepernick, 49ers -- 62 units
RB: Frank Gore, 49ers -- 59 units
RB: Shane Vereen, Patriots -- 24 units
WR: Wes Welker, Patriots -- 48 units
WR: Michael Crabtree, 49ers -- 37 units
TE: Delanie Walker, 49ers -- 16 units
K: Kai Forbath, Redskins -- 17 units
DST: Ravens -- 30 units

If only I didn't make any moves last week I would have been in good shape. My Wild Card lineup had Foster at running back and Smith at receiver. I replaced both, going with Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker, respectively, which completely backfired. Now, I'm down to five transactions, and I had to replace Aaron Rodgers, Moreno, Harris, Greg Jennings and Decker while sticking with no kicker and the Ravens DST, which I had from the beginning. I'm going all in on the 49ers and Patriots making it to the Super Bowl, and based on value, Kaepernick, Gore, Vereen, Welker and Crabtree make the most sense. I put Walker in last week, and hopefully he will play better this week against the Falcons.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Ravens not concerned about Owen Daniels
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(4:11 pm ET) The Ravens don't seem concerned about Owen Daniels' status for Sunday, according to the Baltimore Sun

According to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Daniels is "fine." Kubiak noted that coach John Harbaugh has a plan for the team's veteran players. Daniels was held out of practice Thursday due to a knee issue. He was also held out Wednesday, but that was assumed to be a veteran's day of rest. 


Throw Doug Baldwin right in the fire
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4:06 pm ET) If you own Doug Baldwin in Fantasy, chances are you just added him in response to his 123-yard, touchdown-scoring performance at St. Louis in Week 7. Hey, with Percy Harvin following Golden Tate out the door and the Seahawks throwing the ball more than ever, somebody has be on the other end of Russell Wilson's passes.

But you may still be reluctant to start Baldwin Week 8 at Carolina just because ... well, it's not like Harvin was doing all that much for the Seahawks. Where was Baldwin before the trade?

Harvin may not have been giving the Seahawks much yardage, but a lot of the plays when he took the field were designed specifically for him. He had a decent number of targets and several carries as well. On average, it was probably about eight plays each week that are now going to someone else.

That's a significant number, especially since nobody new was added with his removal. And again, the Seahawks have been throwing the ball more and more in recent weeks with their defense showing signs of weakness.

The Panthers aren't so great against the pass, ranking 22nd of 32 teams, and have been especially bad against wide receivers, allowing the fourth-most Fantasy points per game to them. I say you run Baldwin out there right away.


Are we really doubting Russell Wilson still?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:52 pm ET) Coming off the best game of his life (at least from a statistical standpoint), Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is started in only 67 percent of CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues. Is that a problem to anyone else?

In case you haven't noticed, the Seahawks haven't been as dominant defensively this year, which has made Wilson's performance more critical to their success. The result is better numbers for the third-year passer. He's contributed at least two touchdowns in every game but one, and that one was sandwiched between two three-touchdown games, including Week 7.

In those three-touchdown games, Wilson also rushed for more than 100 yards, leading to some monster production that has made him the fifth-best quarterback in standard CBSSports.com leagues to date.

So he's consistent and has a high ceiling from week to week. So ... what's the deal, then? Certainly it's not the matchup steering you away from him in Week 8. The hosting Panthers have allowed the sixth-most Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season and rank 22nd against the pass, giving up 250.7 yards per game.


Jaguars coach: Robinson featured in Week 8 over Gerhart
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:42 pm ET) Gus Bradley has announced that Week 7 breakout back Denard Robinson will receive the bulk of the carries for the Jaguars in Week 8 against Miami, per the Florida Times-Union. Toby Gerhart, who returns from injury with a 2.6 YPC average, will serve as his backup.

The former Michigan quarterback exploded for 127 yards on 22 carries and added three receptions Sunday against Cleveland. It marked his first double-figure attempt day in the NFL.

Gerhart appears set to play after missing two games with a foot sprain.


Panthers expecting Byron Bell to play Week 8
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:35 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Thursday he anticipates offensive lineman Byron Bell playing Week 8 against the Seahawks. Bell was limited in practice Thursday for a second straight day due to an elbow injury.

Panthers' Rivera hopeful DeAngelo Williams will be back Week 9
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:31 pm ET) Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams did not practice Thursday due to a lingering ankle injury and it appears likely he will miss a fourth straight game Week 8 vs. Seattle. However, coach Ron Rivera said he is hopeful Williams will make his return to the lineup next Thursday (Week 9) against the Saints.

Ahmad Bradshaw more attractive than usual?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:29 pm ET) Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both really like Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw for Week 8 at Pittsburgh, ranking him among their top 12 at the position. And based strictly on performance, you can understand why. Bradshaw had his second two-touchdown game Week 7 against Cincinnati and has at least one touchdown in five of seven games this season.

But because he's the slightly lesser half (in terms of playing time) of a backfield platoon with Trent Richardson, I always worry about his lack of touches. He's been the sixth-best running back in standard CBSSports.com leagues to date, so maybe those worries are unfounded. But what can I say? I'm a worrier.

I'm fully on board with him this week, though. It's not so much about the matchup, though the Steelers rank only 17th against the run, allowing 114.1 yards per game. It's more about Richardson's health. On his way to a season-best 118 yards from scrimmage, Richardson also hurt his hamstring in Week 7. And though he was expected back at practice Thursday, it's not so unreasonable to think he'll be the lesser half of the platoon even if he's cleared to play in Week 8.

And more touches can only be a good thing for Bradshaw, right?


Panthers OL Nate Chandler (thigh) should be able to play Week 8
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:26 pm ET) Panthers offensive tackle Nate Chandler did not practice Thursday due to a thigh injury. However, coach Ron Rivera is confident Chandler will be able to play Week 8 against the Seahawks.

Redskins QB situation unchanged, Colt McCoy still Week 8 starter
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:18 pm ET) Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Thursday nothing has changed with the status of the quarterback situation. He said Robert Griffin III (ankle) is progressing and was limited in practice again Thursday, but Colt McCoy remains as of now the starter for Week 8 against the Cowboys.

"Robert hasn't changed. Not a whole lot to say. Not going to announce if he's active or not until Monday night," Gruden said, per The Washington Post.

Gruden reiterated Griffin will slide back into the starter's role once he is healthy. Griffin has missed the last five games.

"When Robert's healthy, he'll be the starter. We just don't know when that will be," Gruden said.


Whisenhunt claims Titans QB Locker handling demotion well
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:11 pm ET) Ken Whisenhunt has admitted that deposed Titans starting quarterback Jake Locker is unhappy about losing his job to rookie Zach Mettenberger.

Whisenhunt, however, told The Tennesseean that Locker is handling the news well. "I love Jake Locker," Whisenhunt added.

Locker has missed three games this season due to injury and has been unimpressive when on the field. He has completed just 58 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and four interceptions.


 
 
 
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