Previewing the championship games
Posted Jan. 21 at 07:03 AM
We’ve been getting a few e-mails and phone calls, so I’ve thrown together a brief fantasy overview of the AFC and NFC Championship games. Rankings are based on the fantasy scoring of 6 points for touchdowns, 4 for TD passes, 1 point for every 10 run/rec yards and 1 point for every 20 passing yards.
Mark Sanchez is definitely the distant No. 4. I don’t see much difference between the other three. I’m putting Peyton Manning at No. 3 out of respect for the Jets defense; New York allowed only 8 TD passes in the regular season, which is downright remarkable. Since the NFL went to the 16-game schedule in 1978, only one team has allowed fewer touchdown passes in a season (and oddly, a lot of those guys will also be on the field on Sunday – it was the Colts in 2006). But Manning is just in a zone right now, so he may still have some success. When these teams played a month ago, Manning put up pretty much his usual numbers – in little more than a half, he completed 14 of 21 for 192 yards and put 15 points on the board (a field goal and 2 TDs, both on running plays). Philip Rivers went 27 of 40 for 298 yards, with a touchdown and a touchdown run, against this defense last week, so Manning might do just be fine. Still, in my eyes, it makes sense to put him just a notch behind Drew Brees and Brett Favre. I’m going with Brees first. I don’t think Minnesota’s front four will be able to generate the same kind of pressure against him that it did against Tony Romo, and the Saints have a slightly stronger secondary. Plus the game’s in New Orleans. The offense-defense numbers indicate Brees will be better. That Vikings defense has allowed over five times as many touchdowns on passes (26) versus runs (5). So my QB order is Brees-Favre-Manning-Sanchez.
There’s only one full-time running back left. Adrian Peterson. So he’s the easy No. 1 (even though he had one of his worst games as a pro when Minnesota won 30-27 in a Monday night game here a year ago, running for only 32 yards on 21 carries). The Saints have allowed 21 rushing TDs, which is almost as many as the other three teams combined, so Peterson is by far the running back most likely to score a touchdown this weekend. All of the other teams use committee approaches, and with the Saints and Colts, they’re not even using only two backs – Lynell Hamilton, Mike Bell and Mike Hart all got at least 5 touches last week. The Jets led the league in rushing in the regular season, so I’m projecting they’ll be the 2nd-best rushing team this weekend. But I’m putting Shonn Greene ahead of Thomas Jones. Jones is the starter and is more likely to score when the ball is inside the 3, but for whatever reason, Jones has struggled over the last month, while Greene just keeps getting better and better. In four of his last five games, Jones has averaged under 3 yards per carry. Greene, on the other hand, has averaged at least 4.8 yards per attempt in six of his last seven. In the last four games, Greene averages 105 rushing yards, versus only 65 for Jones. Neither is a factor as a pass catcher (combined, they’ve caught 1 pass for 4 yards in the last five games). Edge to Greene in yards; slight edge to Jones in scoring. But I don’t see either one of these guys rolling up big numbers. This Colts defense is pretty good – better than what it’s been in the past. … The Saints ran the ball very well earlier in the season, but they haven’t really been the same over the last two months, and they’re playing against a defense that’s very good against the run – just 5 rushing TDs allowed in 17 games. Reggie Bush had some awesome runs last week; when you factor in that he’ll probably catch 3-5 passes, he’s probably the No. 2 running back in a PPR format this week. Bush returned a punt for a touchdown against Arizona and returned two punts for TDs when the Saints and Vikings played last year (with that in mind, Minnesota may either kick away from him or spend extra time working on punt coverage this week). Pierre Thomas is probably still New Orleans’ top running back – definitely in most formats and maybe in PPR as well. Thomas averaged 84 yards per game in the regular season (61 rushing, 23 receiving). Our worry is that Bush is coming on and Sean Payton – for reasons I don’t understand – seems to want to get everyone on the roster involved. Bell and Hamilton combined for 11 carries last week – reducing the amount of time Thomas was on the field. … On paper, the Colts should finish with the worst rushing numbers. The Jets aren’t as good against the run, but Indianapolis ranked last in rushing in regular season. And they also have the committee deal going, with Donald Brown probably getting close to 10 touches and maybe Hart or Chad Simpson getting some carries as well. In terms of overall value in typical fantasy leagues, however, I see Joseph Addai as similar in value to the other non-Peterson backs on the board this week. He might catch 5 passes, and he played well in the earlier game, running for 40 yards and a touchdown on 6 carries (in half of a game). … At running back, when I plug the numbers into my spreadsheet, it works out to: Peterson-Addai-P.Thomas-Bush-Greene-T.Jones before we get into the lesser guys. (Greene and Jones are dragged down by their lack of receiving production).
The sleeper player of the week, in my opinion, is Austin Collie. He’s been playing well, and I think he’ll benefit on Sunday from the Jets having Darrelle Revis, who’s playing as well right now as any cornerback ever. New York will put Revis on Reggie Wayne on almost every play, and I think that will translate into Collie playing a bigger role than usual. I believe, in fact, that Collie will finish with better numbers than Wayne. The last time these teams met, Wayne caught only 3 passes for 33 yards, while Collie was up at a team-high 6 receptions for 94 yards. In New York’s game against San Diego, Philip Rivers attempted 40 passes, and only 4 of those went in the direction of Revis; I saw a similar type of strategy by Cincinnati, which ignored Chad Ochocinco in their Wild Card Weekend lose tot he Jets. There are no guarantees, of course. I outlined a similar strategy last week with Malcom Floyd, but Vincent Jackson (covered often by Revis) still had a good game. But Collie is the guy I would pick first (among Indianapolis receivers). According to my numbers, though, the top 4 wide receivers will all come out of the Vikings-Saints game. Sidney Rice is on fire right now; he’s No. 1. Then I’ve got Marques Colston and Robert Meachem; I like both of those guys, but the Saints work so many guys into their offense. Lance Moore is healthy now, and he was rotating with Colston, Meachem and Devery Henderson in the Arizona game – and Drew Brees also will get the ball to numerous backs and tight ends. Percy Harvin is the No. 4 receiver on my board; he’s gotten a decent number of red-zone looks this year, and he also might return a kick for a touchdown (or score on a end-around). So it’s Rice-Colston-Meachem-Harvin on my board, then Collie. (Collie moves up to No. 3 in a PPR format). At the No. 6 spot, it’s a coin flip between Jerricho Cotchery and Reggie Wayne. My numbers indicate Cotchery. Then Braylon Edwards, Devery Henderson, Pierre Garcon, Bernard Berrian and Lance Moore as we get into the lesser guys.
I think Dallas Clark is the best tight end on the board. He’s outstanding, and I think he could benefit from the Darrelle Revis factor – if Revis is locked down on Reggie Wayne, that should cause more passes to be thrown to Clark. Antonio Gates caught 8 passes for 93 yards against this defense last week; Clark could have the same kind of game. In the Jets-Colts game a month ago, Clark caught 4 passes for 57 yards in essentially half of a game. … Visanthe Shiancoe, I think, is the clear No. 2 tight end. He doesn’t catch as many passes as Clark, but he’s a big part of their red-zone offense. Shiancoe has caught 12 of Minnesota’s 34 TD passes; in a TD-only format, I put him just a hair ahead of Clark. … Of the remaining tight ends, I will put Dustin Keller ahead of Jeremy Shockey. Shockey will catch more passes, but he doesn’t score often. Plus I don’t want a guy on my team who gets up and starts waving his arms and slapping himself on the helmet after every routine 8-yard catch. Plus Shockey was limping around in the Arizona game and rotates with David Thomas. Keller has scored in both of the playoff games.
I’ll go with Matt Stover first. The Jets have the good defense, so maybe this is a game where the Colts will have to settle for more field goals than usual. Not much difference between Ryan Longwell and Garrett Hartley. Hartley’s team is at home and is favored by 4 points, but Longwell is more accurate. Of the three top-level kickers, Longwell is the only one with enough pop to hit a kick from 50-plus yards. Jay Feely comes in last.
I think the Colts are the logical choice to be No. 1. Of the quarterbacks left, three are extremely difficult to sack and don’t tend to throw many interceptions – Manning, Brees and Favre. Indianapolis, on the other hand, gets to face a rookie quarterback. So if you look at just sacks and interceptions (which tend to be the most important indicators in most fantasy systems), the Colts are No. 1 at both of those. As an added bonus, they got a nice kick return out of T.J. Rushing last week (normally a weak spot for them – and I still see them as the worst kick-return team left). I don’t see much difference between the next two. I will go with the Vikings next. They seem to have the best pass rush, and they’ve got the big-time return guy (Percy Harvin). But the Saints aren’t far behind; they’re at home, they’ve been opportunistic this year, and Brett Favre is more likely than Drew Brees to start floating balls into coverage. Plus Reggie Bush returned the punt for a touchdown last week. That leaves the Jets Defense, great as it’s been, down in the No. 4 spot.
Posted by ROBERT DAVIS | Jan. 22 at 02:03 AM
I'm in a league playing a playoff fantasy game where we can start any combination of 5 rb's, wr's and te's. What would be your choice for the best 5. I'm currently thinking Bush, Harvin, Rice, Shiancoe and Clark.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Jan. 22 at 02:33 AM
I'm not sure of your exact scoring system. If you're using 1 point for every 10 yards and 6 points for TDs, put me down for Peterson, Addai, Rice, Meachem and Pierre Thomas. (So other than Rice, I'm going with four different guys than you).
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 22 at 03:54 AM
Harvin didn't practice Thursday or Friday. I imagine he'll play, but I'd be a little wary of using him, given that you can pick basically anyone you want. Why take the risk of a guy whose involvement in the gameplan might be a little less than normal after missing the last two practices of the week? I'd probably go with Peterson, Rice, Colston, and Addai, with a fifth either Meachem (also limited in practice the last two days) or maybe Bush.
Posted by ROBERT DAVIS | Jan. 22 at 04:05 AM
Robert Davis again. Our scoring system is antiquated and very different. RB's get double points for receiving tds and WR's get double for running td's including on special teams. I thought about Thomas instead of Bush but thought of the punt returns and receiving possibilities, hence same reason for Harvin. TE's get 1 point per reception plus yardage points.
Posted by ANDY RICHARDSON | Jan. 22 at 04:13 AM
Ah. Scoring system does make Bush seem a better play than Thomas, and if any WR rushes for a touchdown this week, it will almost certainly be Harvin. The migraine issue makes him scary, though. Addai has potential; the Colts like to throw those little shovel passes (shuffle? shuttle? whatever) near the goal line.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Jan. 22 at 08:25 AM
If you're going 1 point per reception (for tight ends only), that makes Dallas Clark the No. 2 player on the board, in my opinion. But Shiancoe still doesn't make it. I will still put Thomas ahead of Bush. (Thomas also catches passes -- 39 recs and 2 TDs in the regular season). With Thomas and Clark moving up, Colston would get bumped from the top 5.
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