Rich Hribar

Postseason Rankings

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Super Bowl Player Rankings

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The 2017 season playoffs have been some of the best NFL playoffs we’ve had in some time. Hopefully, the Eagles and Patriots will put a bow on the strong postseason and deliver a great game Sunday in the Super Bowl. If the game is anything like the Super Bowls that New England has played in involving Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, then it certainly will be. In the previous seven Super Bowl games played by this current New England Dynasty, all seven of those games were decided by six points or less with six of them decided by four points or fewer. From a fantasy stance, outside of quarterback play, both of these teams strike with diversity in using their entire personnel rather than leaning on sole contributors each week to carry their offenses, which means that the counting stats here can go in a number of directions. With that said, we're going to try to steer towards a few of those possible players, beginning with a snapshot on the matchup.


Philadelphia vs New England


-4.5   Spread 4.5  
26.3   Implied Total 21.8  
28.7 2 Points/Gm 28.3 3
18.3 5 Opp. Points/Gm 17.3 2
50.7% 5 Avg. TOP 54.6% 1
67.3 1 Plays/Gm 66.7 4
64.1 18 Opp. Plays/Gm 61.2 6
40.8% 19 Rush% 44.6% 9
59.2% 14 Pass% 55.4% 24
37.9% 4 Opp. Rush % 34.0% 1
62.1% 29 Opp. Pass % 66.0% 32
113.1 15 Rush Yd/Gm 128.9 4
111.2 16 Opp. RuYd/Gm 79.1 1
280.7 2 Pass Yd/Gm 240.1 11
249.7 30 Opp. PaYd/Gm 227.5 17
7.4% 6 Def. Sack Rate 5.8% 23
5.3% 12 Opp. Sack Rate 5.7% 13
0.7 2 Turnovers/Gm 1.2 12
1.0 27 TakeAways/Gm 1.9 4
5.6 2 Penalties/Gm 6.9 23

*Includes Postseason




1. Tom Brady

2. Nick Foles


After a pedestrian final five weeks of the regular season, Tom Brady has been stellar through two games in the postseason, completing 67 percent (61-of-91) of his passes for 337 and 290 yards passing yards with five total touchdowns and no turnovers. Brady has now thrown multiple touchdown passes in nine of his 10 postseason games over the past three seasons. The Eagles' pass defense has been hot, holding the past four opposing quarterbacks they’ve faced – Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan and Case Keenum-  under 6.0 yards per pass attempt in each game with four total touchdown passes. All four of those games came with benefit of being played in Philadelphia, where the Eagles held eight of the 10 opposing quarterbacks they faced this season to throw one or fewer touchdown passes. On the road, however, the Eagles have surrendered 15 or more passing points for fantasy to five of the past seven quarterbacks they’ve faced.  The Eagles have been more vulnerable on the ground to close the season than they were in the early stages of the year, but they still edge closer to being a true pass funnel defense that should cater to Brady coming out throwing the ball early and often to establish offense for the Patriots. Opponents have thrown the ball 60.5 percent of the time versus the Eagles with the score within eight points in either direction outside of the 4th quarter, which is the fourth-highest rate in the league. I'm anticipating the Patriots having a similar offensive game plan here as to when they faced the Titans to open the postseason.


Foles was only truly awful in one his starts while the Eagles have put together two strong game plans to start the postseason. That said, Foles still has a small sample size of just four full games after taking over for Carson Wentz that is bookended by two monster fantasy games versus the Giants (25.5 points) and Vikings (26.1) surrounding two low scoring totals versus the Raiders (8.5) and Falcons (9.6). In those two huge games, Foles threw seven touchdown passes on 71 pass attempts while throwing just one touchdown pass on the 79 throws in-between. The Patriots aren’t the exploitable pass defense that they were to start the season, but they’ve still allowed 15 or more fantasy points to four of the past six quarterbacks they’ve faced with 250 or more passing yards to five of those passers while forcing just one interception to eight touchdowns over that span. There’s a clear talent gap from Brady to Foles and Foles has a wider range of outcomes in terms of touchdown production and efficiency, but Foles should turn in a serviceable fantasy line in terms of yardage.


Running Backs

1.  Dion Lewis

2. Jay Ajayi

3. James White

4. Rex Burkhead

5. Corey Clement 

6. LeGarrette Blount


The Patriots trailed on the scoreboard for just 26 percent of their snaps this season (the fewest in the league), while the Eagles came in at fourth, trailing for just 29.1 percent. Because both teams controlled the game script so heavily this season, both teams faced more running back production through the air then the ground. 58.7 percent of the PPR points scored by opposing running backs against the Eagles came via the passing game, which was the second-highest rate in the league. New England came in at sixth in the same category, with 51.7 percent of the points scored by backs coming through the air.  


This bodes well for the Patriots backs as the trio of Deion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead combined to catch 141 passes for 1,059 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season to date. The backs in New England are always a heavy part of the passing game and they should come out and rely on their intermediate passing game and their backs to establish offense here with the Eagles being a sound rushing defense.


NE RB Usage

Dion Lewis 480 57.9% 52.1% 47.9%
Rex Burkhead 198 48.5% 64.1% 35.9%
James White 447 25.3% 83.2% 16.8%


The Patriots backfield has largely only been a two-headed beast this season, just that the two backs in use have rotated throughout the season due to injuries and performance. What started out as Mike Gillislee and James White manifested into Dion Lewis and White and then Lewis and Burkhead before coming back around to Lewis and White to close the regular season, which has carried into the postseason. The overriding constant here in role has been Lewis, who is the guy we have the most faith in for fantasy production. 


The Patriots are by far the most balanced as an offense when Lewis is in the game. If the script favors the Patriots, his carries can overcome a tougher draw against an opponent that has allowed just 3.4 YPC to opposing backs on the season (third in the league). Lewis has had modest rushing lines of 62 and 34 yards so far in the postseason on 24 carries, so it's not as if he's contingent on a huge rushing performance in the first place to turn in a viable fantasy total.  Even if those totals on the ground remain similar here, Lewis has five or more receptions in five of his past six games with 16 receptions on 18 targets in the two postseason games played so far.  One real rub is that Lewis has also been lifted near the end zone through two playoff games so far, tallying just one the seven rushing attempts by New England backs inside of the 10-yard line so far this postseason. Still, even without a touchdown, he’s the best option for opportunity. 


White has managed just 40 and 26 total yards from scrimmage in each of the playoff games, but has played 32 and 33 snaps in those contests while scoring a touchdown in each of those games. Finding the end zone in the postseason is something White is fond of, scoring seven touchdowns over the five postseason games played over the past two seasons. White has out-carried Lewis 4-1 inside of the 10-yard line this postseason and turned two of those opportunities into touchdowns. Burkhead returned for the AFC Championship game, but he managed just three total snaps early in the game. With the Patriots unable to run the ball at all on Jacksonville in that game while trailing by multiple possessions throughout as the game progressed, we may see his usage rise on Sunday, but he is the sketchiest bet of the trio here for production.


If game script remains neutral, the edge in rushing defenses still belongs to the Eagles, however. Even while controlling script so heavily, the Patriots were just middle of the pack versus the run in raw totals, ranking 18th in yards per game (95.8) to opposing backfields while ranking 31st in YPC (4.7 yards) to opposing backs.  If there’s a team that is going to run the ball well Sunday, my bet would be on the Eagles being the more effective team if they are able to keep the game script in check.


PHI RB Usage with all active

Jay Ajayi 27.4 48.2% 43.8% 56.2%
LeGarrette Blount 19.1 34.9% 44.8% 55.2%
Corey Clement 21.1 28.4% 71.6% 28.4%


With their entire backfield intact, the Eagles have relied on Ajayi the most with his usage increasing regularly as the season has unfolded.  Ajayi has 12 or more touches in six straight games played with 16, 18 and 21 over his past three. The Eagles are a balanced offense with him in the game, using him in the passing game as well. Ajayi has multiple receptions with more than 20 yards in each of his past four games. The only worry with Ajayi reaching a ceiling performance outside of game script is that there’s still potential for him to get removed near the end zone.  Since joining Philadelphia, Ajayi has just one of the 10 rushing attempts by Eagle running backs from inside of the 5-yard line.


That leaves the door open for LeGarrette Blount to find the end zone if the Eagles reach that portion of the field, but if there’s a dark horse for production here, it’s Clement for if the game script skews negative. He’s playing a healthy amount of snaps and is the team’s primary passing game back, something advantageous as mentioned in the open for the position.


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Rich Hribar is a husband, father, sports meteorologist and a slave to statistics. A lifelong sports fan and fantasy gamer. You can find him on Twitter @LordReebs.
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