January 08, 2010

Had enough of fantasy football? Neither have I. That's why I'm here through Conference Championship Week to walk you through the fantasy portion of the Super Bowl tourney.

There are many different ways to run fantasy playoff tournaments, but most involve some variation on picking a squad to that will accumulate the most points through the Super Bowl. The trick is not in picking the best players, but players on the teams that go the farthest. The biggest risk/reward players are on the field this week, because if they win, they might get that magical fourth game that would turn them from gold into platinum. Of course, they could also go home early and leave you with a lollipop ring.

I'm not big on any of the AFC Wild Card round teams making it to Miami, but in the NFC, I'm bullish on the Cowboys. Although it's like a knife in the gut for a Saints fan to admit it, Dallas looks hot right now, and has a good shot at going all the way. On the flipside, Cincinnati and Philadelphia are not looking very appetizing, and Arizona is utterly unpredictable.

1. Peyton Manning -- As if he needed a reason to be hungry, he was denied the perfect season. The only thing between him and the Super Bowl is a sketchy defense.

2. Tony Romo -- The Cowboys are the hottest team in the league right now. Over the last month the defense has two shutouts and held both New Orleans and San Diego under 21 points, while Romo has a 102.0 QB rating and 6:2 TD-INT ratio.

3. Drew Brees -- Brees' QB rating is 120.1 at home, with 20 TDs to four INTs. Did I mention the Saints have home-field throughout the playoffs?

4. Philip Rivers -- He's got a ton of weapons at his disposal, the most 20-plus yards completions, and the highest percentage of passes that went for first downs. Dude is money.

5. Aaron Rodgers -- Rodgers was sacked 50 times, yet still managed to put up better numbers than Brees and Tom Brady. He's a freak, and Green Bay has the league's second-ranked defense, so they could go far.

6. Brett Favre -- Favre won the power struggle with Brad Childress, so the Vikings are a pass-first team now. He's been hot since the second half of the Week 15 Chicago game, with six TDs.

7. Tom Brady -- The loss of Wes Welker hurts, but he'll spread the ball around enough for it not to matter. It's just a question of how far the Patriots will go.

8. Kurt Warner -- Warner is unleashed in pressure situations like the playoffs, but the matchup against Green Bay's fifth-ranked pass defense isn't a good one. He's the highest risk/reward pick among the QBs.

9. Joe Flacco -- He hasn't reached 300 passing yards since Week Six, and though Todd Heap is playing well lately, it's not enough. The Ravens are Ray Rice's team.

10. Donovan McNabb -- He threw for an average of 225 yards in the last two games against Dallas, so there's not much reason to suspect he'll do any better with a depleted offensive line.

11. Carson Palmer -- No matter that his numbers are sub-par this season, the Bengals draw the Jets top-rated defense in the first round of the playoffs. If they were actually trying last week, this could get ugly.

12. Mark Sanchez -- The Jets received gifts from Cincinnati and Indianapolis to get in the playoffs. Speaking of gifts, Sanchez threw nearly twice as many interceptions as TDs (20-12) in his rookie season.

1. Adrian Peterson -- Yes, the Vikings are now a pass-first team, but All Day has six TDs in his last four games. Hard to argue with that.

2. Joseph Addai -- No one has stepped up to take carries away from him, so it's his show. The only thing between Addai and good fantasy numbers is Manning's penchant for throwing in the red zone.

3. Ryan Grant -- Grant rarely catches passes, but his six TDs in the last four games makes up for that. He's basically around to ice games once Rodgers puts the other team away, so yardage may vary.

4. LaDainian Tomlinson -- The good news: Norv Turner is mental about getting LDT short-yardage TDs. The bad news: Tomlinson only hit 100 combined yards once this season.

5. Marion Barber III -- MBIII has 175 yards from scrimmage in two tussles with the Eagles this season, including 91 rushing yards against them last week.

6. Ray Rice -- Rice put up 2,041 yards from scrimmage, yet only scored seven times. Additionally, the Ravens suddenly remembered that Willis McGahee is on the roster, which resulted in 167 rushing yards and three TDs last week, and likely more touches.

7. Pierre Thomas -- He's not a big TD guy (eight this season), but he'll get you enough in the combined-yards department to make a valuable RB2.

8. Beanie Wells -- Throw out the Cards playing dead to Green Bay last week, and the numbers say Wells is Arizona's go-to RB. In December, Wells averaged 86.7 yards from scrimmage and scored in three of four.

9. Thomas Jones -- The ageless one rushed for 78 yards and two TDs against an injury-depleted Bengals defense last week. They won't be any healthier this week.

10. Cedric Benson -- Benson took last week off to heal up for the playoff run, but the hard truth is he hasn't scored since Week Nine, and the Jets have the league's best rush defense.

11. Felix Jones -- While he's healthy and gaining the team's trust, he only topped 15 touches in a game once in December, and that's the unofficial threshold for RB2 value.

12. Reggie Bush -- Bush's totals are all over the map, and predicated on the whims of Sean Payton's playcalling. That said, he's averaging 7.6 yards per touch over the last month. Another boom-or-bust player.

13. Darren Sproles -- He rarely gets double-digit touches in a game, yet somehow he's scored seven TDs.

14. Tim Hightower -- He'll pick up a cheap TD here or there, but nothing you can rely on now that Wells is the Cardinals bellcow.

15. Shonn Greene -- The Jets are getting him a good number of touches lately, but his only two TDs came in a blowout against Oakland.

16. Sammy Morris/Fred Taylor/Laurence Maroney -- What a mess. Maroney is in the doghouse for fumbling, while Morris and Taylor are sharing touches. Meanwhile, Kevin Faulk is probably in line for more playing time with Welker out.

17. LeSean McCoy/Bryan Westbrook/Leonard Weaver -- The Cowboys have the fourth-best rushi defense in football, and the touches are being split pretty evenly among the Eagles RBs. Avoid this situation like Andy Reid avoids Weight Watchers.

1. Reggie Wayne -- The numbers haven't been stellar lately, but the Colts haven't been trying. Wayne is Manning's favorite target, and that means pretty much everything in a fantasy playoff format.

2. Vincent Jackson -- Rivers will lean heavily on V-Jax, and his 17.2 YPC means he snags a lot of deep balls. The only worry is he's in a bit of a TD slump.

3. Miles Austin -- Had a rough patch in Weeks 10-11, but is averaging 106.8 receiving yards per game since then, with four TDs. That's called peaking at the right time.

4. Sidney Rice -- He's the main beneficiary of the Vikings pass-first attitude. Rice is averaging 69 receiving yards and a TD per game over the last four.

5. Marques Colston -- There is no reason to believe Brees' favorite target won't produce, particularly since he averages double-digit fantasy points per game (PPR format.)

6. Larry Fitzgerald -- I'm sure ya'll remember Fitzy torching every living soul in last year's run to the Super Bowl. He's scored eight TDs in his last nine games. Game on.

7. Randy Moss -- With Welker gone, he's the clear No. 1 option for Brady. Problem is, other teams know that too. Even so, he's a near-lock to score against Baltimore's terrible secondary.

8. DeSean Jackson -- The Cowboys own Jackson like no one else. He has 76 receiving yards against his division rivals this season. If Philadelphia gets past them, though, look out. Huge risk/reward player.

9. Donald Driver -- Fell off a bit late in the season; hasn't hit paydirt in a month and per-game averages are down all around. Still, he's more reliable than Greg Jennings.

10. Derrick Mason -- Who else is Joe Flacco going to throw to? Besides, Mason quietly surpassed 1,000 receiving yards.

11. Pierre Garcon -- He hasn't scored double-digit fantasy points since Week 13, but Manning clearly favors him over Austin Collie.

12. Greg Jennings -- A similar situation to Anquan Boldin (minus the injuries), but with fewer catches and a better average per catch. However, he's on a team with a better chance to reach the Super Bowl from the Wild Card round.

13. Robert Meachem -- He's a starter in the Saints high-powered offense, and while the yardage may not look impressive due to New Orleans' many targets, he's the team's top deep threat.

14. Percy Harvin -- Has 11 catches in the last two games, but is not a big scoring threat with Visanthe Shiancoe healthy.

15. Anquan Boldin -- He averages over five catches per game, which is great. However, he's only scored four times this season. He's also "questionable" with multiple injuries.

16. Laveranues Coles -- I actually like him better than Ochocinco, and not just against the Jets. The yardage isn't pretty, but Coles scored in two of his last three games.

17. Chad Ochocinco -- Whether or not he was dogging it last week, he has to try to face Darrelle Revis again. His previous attempt yielded zero catches.

18. Julian Edelman -- Is he a Welker clone? Certainly not, but he'll help in a pinch. He may pile up the catches, but he's not particularly thrilling after the catch.

19. Roy E. Williams -- Williams has two catches on eight targets for 14 receiving yards in the last three games. He's dead to Romo.

20. Jeremy Maclin -- Dallas held him to under 50 receiving yards in their two meetings, yet their attention will be focused on Jackson and Brent Celek, which could mean a slight improvement.

21. Austin Collie -- He had a nice game against the Jets (six catches, 94 yards), but he's Manning's fourth option, at best.

22. Jerricho Cotchery -- He caught nine passes for 84 yards against Bengals and Colts squads that were rolling over like dogs. Call him "Mr. Bubble Screen."

23. Braylon Edwards -- Edwards seems to have a sixth sense for when fantasy players rely on him, as he usually starts dropping balls the minute he starts generating any hype.

1. Dallas Clark -- Only Antonio Gates has more receiving yards among TEs, but Clark has two more TDs and 21 more receptions. It's a close call, but I'll stick with more receptions.

2. Antonio Gates -- A very close second to Clark. Ya gotta love the six TDs in the last six games.

3. Jason Witten -- Hitting his stride again, with 12 catches for 203 yards and a TD in the last two weeks.

4. Jermichael Finley -- While Green Bay's wide receivers are erratic lately, Finley is the model of stability. He' averaging 67.4 receiving yards and scored four times in his last five games.

5. Visanthe Shiancoe -- He's healthy again, and Brett Favre is force-feeding him the ball in the red zone. Shiancoe has 134 receiving yards in his last two games.

6. Brent Celek -- There is no hotter TE in football right now. He has 354 receiving yards and two TDs in his last four games. Another big risk/reward pick.

7. Todd Heap -- Finally healthy, and he's the third receiving option after Mason and Rice. He scored twice in Weeks 15 and 16, so Flacco trusts him in the red zone.

8. Ben Watson -- Will probably see an increase in touches, particularly in the red zone, with Welker gone.

9. Jeremy Shockey -- IF Shockey suits up for the Division playoff game (a big if), it will have been over a month since he's seen the field. He'll probably need a guide to find the end zone, which he hasn't visited since mid-October.

10. Dustin Keller -- Normally, you'd expect a rookie QB to lean on his TE. That did not happen with Keller, whose production got worse as the season went on.

11. J.P. Foschi -- I was surprised to learn the Bengals even had a TE on their roster. And he caught a TD, too!

12. Ben Patrick: Patrick is Warner's sixth option, ranking somewhere after throwing it at a defender's helmet.

1. Colts2. Cowboys3. Packers4. Chargers5. Vikings6. Saints7. Jets8. Ravens9. Patriots10. Cardinals11. Bengals12. Eagles

1. Nate Kaeding2. Matt Stover3. Ryan Longwell4. Garrett Hartley5. Mason Crosby6. Shaun Suisham7. Stephen Gostkowski8. Neil Rackers9. David Akers10. Jay Feely11. Billy Cundiff12. Shayne Graham13. Adam Vinatieri

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