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Playoff Fantasy Football rankings: Trust the Broncos, avoid the Colts

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The record-setting Peyton Manning is always a safe bet for any fantasy start.

Playoff fantasy football is a completely different beast than the traditional version. You can't just think about the game from a fantasy standpoint. You also need to consider the real-life possibilities of each team advancing. Sure, Drew Brees and Andy Dalton live in completely different quarterback universes, but do Dalton and the Bengals have a great chance of playing more games than Brees and the Saints? Shane Vereen likely won't be among the top-10 backs on 2014 draft boards among those headed for the playoffs. However, the Patriots could very well win the AFC and play three games. In playoff fantasy football, the teams you back matter more than ever.

For me, being on a superior better team is more than a tiebreaker. I'm willing to reach down a tier from, say, Nick Foles to Colin Kaepernick, because I believe more in latter's team. Therefore, you must rank the teams before you rank the players.

Teams

1. Denver Broncos
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. New England Patriots
4. Carolina Panthers
5. Cincinnati Bengals
6. Green Bay Packers
7. San Francisco 49ers
8. Kansas City Chiefs
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. New Orleans Saints
11. Indianapolis Colts
12. San Diego Chargers

The Broncos and Seahawks are both strong 1-seeds, so you'll see many of their players littered at the top of each position. Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno and Demaryius Thomas should be among the most popular players in playoff leagues, regardless of your format. Same goes for Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. The Chargers are the one team I'd actively avoid. Of all the Wild Card games, Cincinnati-San Diego appears to be the most lopsided. There are few players I'd want if I believed they were only going to play one game. None of them are on the Chargers.

After that, however, possibilities abound in both conferences, especially the NFC. The largest spread in the remaining three games is the three points the 49ers are laying in Green Bay. The Broncos and Patriots will both be big favorites in the Divisional Round, but the Packers, 49ers, Eagles and Saints all seem to have the juice to pull off a run from the opening playoff weekend to the Super Bowl. Given the firepower on those teams, one of them could hold the key to winning a playoff fantasy league.

I have the Bengals ranked higher than most because I think they're the safest bet in the Wild Card round. That would give them at least two games, and a real chance at a third thanks to what would be a winnable game at New England. While one of Green Bay and San Francisco will be eliminated this weekend, the winner of that game could give the fantasy community hugely lucrative players in this year's postseason. I'm willing to roll the dice on those teams because of the high ceiling for many of their players.

On the contrary, the Saints may feature one of the league's most explosive offenses, but they've been a completely different team on the road this year, which is where they'll be for the duration of their stay in the playoffs. That's why they find themselves toward the bottom of the rankings.

Quarterbacks

1. Peyton Manning

2. Cam Newton

3. Aaron Rodgers

4. Nick Foles

5. Russell Wilson

6. Drew Brees

7. Tom Brady

8. Andy Dalton

9. Philip Rivers

10. Andrew Luck

11. Colin Kaepernick

12. Alex Smith

Running Backs

1. Jamaal Charles

2. Marshawn Lynch

3. Knowshon Moreno

4. Frank Gore

5. LeSean McCoy

6. Eddie Lacy

7. Giovani Bernard

8. DeAngelo Williams

9. Shane Vereen

10. Ryan Mathews

11. Pierre Thomas

12. LeGarrette Blount

13. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

14. Wes Welker

15. Montee Ball

16. Darren Sproles

17. Danny Woodhead

18. Donald Brown

19. Trent Richardson

20. James Starks

21. Stevan Ridley

22. Jonathan Stewart

23. Mike Tolbert

24. Mark Ingram

25. Kendall Hunter

Wide Receivers

1. Demaryius Thomas

2. A.J. Green

3. Eric Decker

4. Jordy Nelson

5. DeSean Jackson

6. Julian Edelman

7. Golden Tate

8. Randall Cobb

9. Marques Colston

10. T.Y. Hilton

11. Anquan Boldin

12. Riley Cooper

13. Danny Amendola

14. Michael Crabtree

15. Keenan Allen

16. Doug Baldwin

17. Steve Smith

18. Brandon LaFell

19. Dwayne Bowe

20. James Jones

21. Percy Harvin

22. Donnie Avery

23. Dexter McCluster

24. Lance Moore

25. Marvin Jones

26. Eddie Royal

27. Ted Ginn, Jr.

28. Kenny Stills

29. Da'Rick Rogers

30. Griff Whalen

31. Domenik Hixon

32. Vincent Brown

33. Quinton Patton

34. Kenbrell Thompkins

35. Mohamed Sanu

36. Aaron Dobson

Tight Ends

1. Julius Thomas

2. Greg Olsen

3. Jimmy Graham

4. Vernon Davis

5. Coby Fleener

6. Zach Miller

7. Zach Ertz

8. Brent Celek

9. Jermaine Gresham

10. Antonio Gates

11. Anthony Fasano

12. Ladarius Green

13. Tyler Eifert

Kicker

1. Matt Prater

2. Steven Hauschka

3. Stephen Gostkowski

4. Graham Gano

5. Phil Dawson

6. Shayne Graham

7. Mason Crosby

8. Ryan Succop

9. Alex Henery

10. Mike Nugent

11. Nick Novak

12. Adam Vinatieri

Defenses

1. Seahawks

2. Broncos

3. Panthers

4. 49ers

5. Bengals

6. Chiefs

7. Patriots

8. Colts

9. Eagles

10. Saints

11. Packers

12. Chargers

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