Before we take a look at some potential playoff sleepers let's first check out this weeks matchups and potential second round games.
In one NFC game we'll see a rematch of the Vikings-Packers week 17 game, only this time in Green Bay. In their two meetings this season the home team has won each game. Taking a look at the stats the only consistent player in both games was Adrian Peterson, who ran for 210 yards in week 13 and 199 yards week 17. If you honestly believe Minnesota is going to win this game you'd be crazy not to have Peterson on your fantasy team. We think this will be a close one, but in the end Green Bay moves on. In the other NFC match up we'll see Seattle head east to FedEx field to face the Washington Redskins. We'd like to say ride the hot hand but both teams are 7-1 in their final 8 games. We'd also like to go with the more experienced team, yet both teams are starting rookie of the year candidates at quarterback. This should be a great game to watch and while we don't like Seattle's road record (3-5), we still believe they'll be heading to Atlanta next weekend.
The first AFC playoff game we'll see this weekend is a rematch of one we saw last year as Cincinnati heads to Houston once again. Similar to last year's 31-10 Texans victory, we expect Houston to move on to the next round this year too. In the second AFC matchup we'll see another rookie of the year candidate -- Andrew Luck -- lead the 11-5 Colts into Baltimore. The Ravens have not had great success against the Colts in recent playoff history, but that was while Payton Manning was with Indy. While Luck's play this year has been exceptional, we just don't believe he and the Colts have what it takes to beat Baltimore at home this year.
If all the games play out as we expect then we'll see Atlanta hosting Seattle, San Francisco hosting Green Bay, Denver hosting Baltimore and New England hosting Houston. Of these four matchups we believe the Packers are the most likely wildcard weekend team to reach a conference championship. What this means is we believe only 1 of the 12 teams has the potential to play 4 post season games. We know history tells us all the favorites are not going to win, but we don't see Denver or New England losing their opening round game. This leaves only Seattle to win a second road game and with a 3-5 regular season road record we just don't see it happening.
Now that you know where we see teams headed, let us take a look at some potential post season sleepers.
1) Andy Dalton, QB Cincinnati - You're right, we said we like Houston to win the wildcard matchup, but if you believe otherwise then Dalton could be a nice post season selection. For starters, the Texans have lost three of their last four, so the potential for Dalton to advance to Denver is clearly there. We don't believe Andy will turn the ball over 4 times again this year and facing Houston's tough run defense should mean plenty of passing opportunities. If the Bengals advance to face Denver in the second round, Dalton will see a Broncos team that he has had some success against this season. In week 8 Andy threw for 299 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Bengals' 23-31 loss to Denver. If you believe the Bengals get by Houston then Andy could be a nice 2 week play.
2) Andrew Luck, QB Indianapolis - Sure we said the Colts are going to lose to Baltimore, but that doesn't mean it is going to happen. As a matter of fact nearly 60% of you believe Indianapolis comes out of Baltimore with the win. If you happen to be part of that 60% then Luck could be a nice post season selection. The rookie out of Stanford has looked like anything but a rookie for most of the season. Couple this with Baltimore's lackluster defensive performance as of late and we could see Andrew moving on to (likely) Denver next weekend. Part of me would enjoy seeing Peyton Manning vs. Andrew Luck, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to listen to the media talk about it for a week. The quarterback matchup may be nice to talk about, but the chances of Indy beating the Broncos in Denver to advance to the Championship game are slim. Luck would likely be another 2 week play and a risky one at that, but if you like the Colts to beat the Ravens then Andrew could be a nice selection.
3) DuJuan Harris, RB Green Bay - Harris carried the ball 14 times for 70 yards (5 yards per carry) and pulled in 2 receptions for 17 yards in the Packers' week 17 loss to Minnesota. Even with a healthy Ryan Grant and Alex Green on the sideline, it was Harris who got the call last Sunday. If the Packers are going to make it to the Super Bowl they'll need to run the ball more effectively. If Harris can continue to average 4.5-5 yards per carry, hitting 100-yards this weekend shouldn't be a problem. The down side to Harris would of course be a potential second round matchup against San Francisco. Again, the Packers will need to run the ball if nothing else than to keep the defense honest so Harris will see a good number of carries. In addition, it wouldn't surprise us to see Harris play a larger role in the Packers receiving game. A good way to slow down the pass rush is to dump off a few to your running back.
4) Danny Woodhead, RB New England - Sure Steven Ridley is the Patriots' lead back, but don't let this scare you away from Woodhead. If there's one thing you can count on with New England it is that you never know who will lead the team in yards week to week. Danny has been hit or miss all season and that's pretty much what we expect to see in the post season. With the potential for 3 games (New England is one of three teams to beat Denver this season), you have to believe Woodhead will be the best back on the field for at least one of them.
5) T.Y. Hilton, WR Indianapolis - If you believe the Colts will win their opening round game against the Ravens then T.Y. Hilton could be a nice playoff sleeper. The rookie out of Florida International finished off the season with a 4 reception 111 yards game against the Texans last Sunday. This was the fifth time this season the rookie eclipsed the 100 yard mark. Reggie Wayne draws all the attention, which leaves Hilton and fellow receiver Donnie Avery is single coverage for much of the game. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck likes to throw the long ball to Hilton, so don't be surprised to see just 3-4 receptions a game. The biggest question of course is whether the Colts can move on to face Denver in week two or will they go home?
6) Santana Moss, WR Washington - If there's one thing the Redskins will need in order to make a run in the post season it is veteran leadership in the huddle and Moss can be that guy. Moss may not have been a big play receiver this season as he had in past years, yet when it came to the end zone Santana was money. Moss led all Redskins receivers with 8 touchdown receptions this season. It would not surprise us to see Moss find the end zone in each of the Redskins' post season games. The Redskins have a good chance to play two post season games as they host Seattle in the first round. The Seahawks went 3-5 on the road this season and if they fail to show up this weekend then Moss would be playing again in two weeks (likely against the Atlanta Falcons). Atlanta's secondary finished the regular season ranked 23rd in the league. This too could be good news for anyone looking at Moss.
7) Jermichael Finley, TE Green Bay - Aside from a couple of games, Finley's fantasy production this season has been just awful. In fact, his numbers were so bad for most the season he fell off of most people's radar. This could be good news for anyone looking for a post season TE sleeper. As we stated earlier, we believe the Packers have the best chance to play in 3-4 post season games. The Packers just got their number one receiver --Jennings-- back last week and this should help Finley's numbers. Defenses will now place more attention on the Packers receivers and less on Jermichael. This could mean big numbers for Finley in what could be 3 or even 4 post season games.