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2021 IDP PLAYOFF RANKINGS: Conference Championship Games

The “Final Four” for the 2020-2021 NFL season has been set, and now only one game separates those four clubs from a trip to Tampa and a berth in Super Bowl LV.

On the AFC side, chalk ruled the divisional round. In Buffalo, the Bills handed Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens another playoff disappointment with a  17-3 win that vaulted the Bills to their first conference title game since the 1993 season. For an AFC-record third year in a row, that conference title game will take place in Kansas City after the Chiefs out-lasted the Cleveland Browns 22-17. But that win came at a cost—Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was forced from the contest with a foot injury and a concussion.

The No. 1 seed in the NFC moved on as well, as the Green Bay Packers played an excellent game on both sides of the ball in handling the Los Angeles Rams 32-18. But there was at least one upset of sorts last week—thanks largely to four turnovers (including three Drew Brees interceptions) the Tampa Bay Buccaneers downed the New Orleans Saints 30-20, sending Tom Brady on to a ridiculous 14th conference title game.

The divisional round contained several excellent defensive performances as well—although not all of them were of use to fantasy managers in IDP playoff leagues like The Football Isn’t Over Yet IDP Invitational.

In Buffalo, veteran defensive ends Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes combined for five tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble against the Ravens. After missing the Wild Card Round, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White was back at it against the Saints—11 total tackles, an interception, and a forced fumble. Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins racked up 11 total tackles in the loss to Tampa.

Now, there are just three games and two weeks left in the season—and both the player pool and the margin for error for fantasy managers in IDP playoff leagues are shrinking rapidly.

As has been the case the past few years here at Fantasy Sharks, in order to help you in the final quest for fantasy glory this season, I’ll be publishing IDP rankings each week during the 2020-2021 playoffs. These rankings assume a league format where teams start two defensive linemen, two linebackers, two defensive backs and a  couple “flex” spots.

They also assume a “one/two and done” format where players are concerned. In other words, while the entire pool of individual defensive players is available, each player can only be used once (or twice, in this particular format). So, while matchup and talent are still the primary considerations, it’s also important to identify which teams are going to be eliminated in a given week and try to use those players where possible.

Otherwise, by the time we get to Super Bowl LV, IDP owners won’t have anyone left to slot in starting lineups.

With those caveats in mind, here’s a look at the top 10 defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs for the conference championship games.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

  1. Jason Pierre-Paul – DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at GBP)
  2. Chris Jones – DT, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)
  3. Kenny Clark – DT, Green Bay Packers (vs. TBB)
  4. Jerry Hughes – DE, Buffalo Bills (at KCC)
  5. Frank Clark – DE, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)
  6. Mario Addison – DE, Buffalo Bills (at KCC)
  7. Ed Oliver – DT, Buffalo Bills (at KCC)
  8. Alex Okafor – DE, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)
  9. Ndamukong Suh – DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at GBP)
  10. A.J. Epenesa – DE, Buffalo Bills (at KCC)

LINEBACKERS

  1. Devin White – ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at GBP
  2. Lavonte David – ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at GBP)
  3. Tremaine Edmunds – ILB. Buffalo Bills (at KCC)
  4. Krys Barnes – ILB, Green Bay Packers (vs. TBB)
  5. Matt Milano – OLB, Buffalo Bills (at KCC)
  6. Za’Darius Smith – OLB, Green Bay Packers (vs. TBB)
  7. Willie Gay Jr. – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)
  8. Anthony Hitchens – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)
  9. Shaq Barrett – OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at GBP)
  10. Preston Smith – OLB, Green Bay Packers (vs. TBB)

DEFENSIVE BACKS

  1. Jordan Poyer – S, Buffalo Bills (at KCC)
  2. Antoine Winfield Jr. – S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at GBP)
  3. Tyrann Mathieu – S, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)
  4. Adrian Amos – S, Green Bay Packers (vs. TBB))
  5. Taron Johnson – CB, Buffalo Bills (at KCC)
  6. Daniel Sorensen – S, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)
  7. Jaire Alexander – CB, Green Bay Packers (vs. TBB)
  8. L’Jarius Sneed – CB, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. BUF)
  9. Darnell Savage – S, Green Bay Packers (vs. TBB)
  10. Tre’Davious White – CB, Buffalo Bills (at KCC)

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an nine-time FSWA Award finalist and three-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last four years. He won the honor in 2017 and 2019. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.