Ready ... set ... no!
The first rule of playoff fantasy football is there are no rules. The second rule of playoff fantasy football is THERE ARE NO RULES! Obviously, I'm not talking about your individual league formats, but rather the rules that you've governed your team by throughout the year. You know, things like avoiding bad matchups at all costs, never benching your studs and bypassing seemingly "ugly" players for sexier name guys. Well, now is the time to shed those tenets in favor of a
Matt Schaub: Schaub's 414-yard performance on the road in Green Bay should have been convincing enough, but since some will look at his three-interception effort in his first go-around with Tennessee and shy away, let me point a few things out. First, the Titans secondary is considerably banged up, but just as important, where's their motivation? They've essentially wrapped up home field, and they've beaten the Texans seven straight times. You think they'll be sitting in the locker room before the game, smacking themselves in the face and spitting into each other's mouth in an attempt to get psyched up? Doubtful. You have to bring your best effort to stop "My Man Matt," and the Titans have been wearing eau de Lackadaisical for a couple of weeks now.
Kurt Warner: Hey, people thought I was crazy when I recommended they consider benching Romo last week. But 210 yards and four turnovers later, and who's the one with regrets? Warner's thrown six interceptions and lost two fumbles in his last four games. With the Cardinals having already clinched the division, and facing a desperate Minnesota team, it's not out of the realm of possibility that we see
Kyle Orton: Looks aside, Orton has truly been one of the more "toadly" fantasy quarterbacks since returning (too early) from an ankle injury, but over the last two weeks, he's slowly started to morph. He has back-to-back two touchdown outings, and remember, there was a stretch earlier in the season when Orton put up 17 or more fantasy points in five straight games. With the 26th-ranked New Orleans pass defense coming to town, the Bears signal caller has a shot at ascending to kingly status. "Neckbeardimus Ortonivus" has a certain regal ring to it, no?
Matt Ryan: For all you stat heads out there, here's an interesting one for you. In the five games that Ryan has thrown 25 times or less, the Falcons are 5-0, and the rookie has a QB rating of 130. In the eight games he's been asked to attempt more than 25 passes, he's posted a rating of 79.3 and Atlanta is 3-5. Knowing that, it should be a good thing for Ryan that the Falcons will try to exploit a Buccaneers team that was absolutely embarrassed by the run this past Monday, right? Not exactly. While that may be the game plan, don't discount the mood that Tampa Bay will be in after being subjected to a week's worth of beratings and not-so-subtle mind games from
Pierre Thomas: Oui, oui, Pierre est un très bon fantasy running back ... wait a minute, he's not French? He's from Chicago, Ill.? Well that explains a lot. You may not remember since it happened in Week 17 last year, but Thomas rushed for 105 yards and had 12 catches for 121 yards in his only start of 2007... in Chicago against the Bears. I love the prodigal son returns home angle, but not as much as I love that he's scored six touchdowns in four games since taking on an expanded role. With the Saints passing game spreading out the stingy Bears defense, Thomas will find plenty of daylight up the middle and will be given every goal line opportunity, making him a "Lucky Pierre" that owners won't mind being involved with.
Marshawn Lynch: The Bills are past a sinking analogy; they're sitting on the bottom with a rock tied to their ankle at this point. They haven't scored a touchdown in two straight games, Edwards doesn't scare anyone, and Losman actually makes defenses giddier than a hippy with a nitrous balloon. Their offensive ineptitude has hindered Lynch's value all year, and it's only going to get worst against a Jets team that he gained just 16 yards on in their first meeting. Trust me, now is not the time to be stubborn. Unless you start three running backs, Lynch shouldn't be among your actives.
Justin Fargas: From strictly a talent standpoint, New England may have the worst defense in the league right now. To say that they've been ravaged by injury would be a gross understatement. At the end of last week's game, they only had five opening day starters healthy enough to take the field (karma anyone?). Since the Raiders have about as much success passing the ball as a high school team running a triple option offense, look for them to rely heavily on the ground game. Considering Fargas has received 73 percent of the carries over the last four games, he's clearly the likeliest candidate to use the Patriots rash of injuries to make himself into a one-week fantasy gold mine.
Joseph Addai: After scoring two touchdowns and totaling over 150 combined yards in Week 11, Addai owners were looking at an upcoming schedule so friendly that it practically loaned them money in advance of their sure-fire championship (San Diego, Cleveland, Cincinnati). Three weeks and zero touchdowns later, and Addai isn't even the best option on his team heading into a date with everyone's favorite slump buster, the Detroit Lions. Rhodes is healthier (Addai has been dealing with knee and shoulder issues), more effective, and the preferred short yardage option. Even against the lowly Lions, the Colts will keep their supposed star running back on a very short leash. I'd recommend you do the same.
Derrick Mason: It's pretty amazing that Mason has stayed so consistent despite struggling to lift his arm above his head because of a dislocated shoulder. I have a buddy that dislocated his shoulder, and he not only couldn't participate in our draft day touch football game, but I'm pretty sure he was pitching batting practice with his opposite hand for over a month. Pretty remarkable. The Steelers' blitzing defenders will be in Flacco's face all day, and he'll in turn be looking frequently for his reliable safety valve. Mason had eight catches for 137 yards in the Ravens first meeting with the Steelers, and he caught six passes in both games against them last year. Bum shoulder or not, the man always finds a way to help your team.
Calvin Johnson: The Colts excel in preventing long gains in the passing game and have only allowed three pass plays of over 40 yards, which just happens to be a category that Johnson leads the league in. In fact, on his seven 40-plus yard catches, he's amassed a ridiculous 404 yards and three touchdowns. With
Donnie Avery: Let's see, so far Avery has gone from being an unknown collegiate player to being the first receiver taken in last April's draft, and then back to being a forgotten man before exploding into everyone's consciousness during a three week span in which he had 14 catches for 291 yards and two touchdowns. He then quickly disappeared again. So taking into account the already up-and-down nature of his young career, and the fact that the Rams are facing the Seahawks -- who possess the last ranked pass defense in the league -- in what promises to be one of those crappy-team shootouts that the NFC West seems to give us every year (usually involving the 49ers and Cardinals), I feel completely confident in saying that Avery will catch a minimum of five balls while scoring on a deep one. Seems reasonable to me.
Chad Johnson: OK, maybe calling Johnson a prince is a bit of stretch. I suppose something like Court Jester or Town Ass would be more appropriate, but he did have a season-high 79 receiving yards against the Colts. I could see where some people might be tempted into thinking that maybe, just maybe, there's an explosive end to the season lurking. And I'm here to say to those folks...don't be foolish. The Bengals have gone without a touchdown in 11 straight quarters. Hell, they've only scored 11 offensive touchdowns on the entire year, and there have been
As always, we'll deal with the tight ends quick hitter style ...
I'm not sure what's more shocking, that Shiancoe has four more touchdowns catches than Cooley, or that within the past two months I've seen both of their genitals? Wait, you don't need to answer that. There's no way anyone saw those five scores coming ... I told you about that Daniels/Schaub connection didn't I? He's back to being a top-5 guy ... Boss has one catch for five yards in his last two games and has been held without a catch in two of his last five. Not exactly the kind of reliability you're looking for in the playoffs ... So much for