Fantasy Clicks: Favre, Rice headline Divisional Playoff Revelations
Brett Favre: John Biever/SI
Welcome to the dirty little secret that is postseason fantasy football. At least, it WAS a secret ... before millions of owners discovered an addictive, highly creative way to get their fantasy fix long after Week 17 became official. To wit, here are the Revelations from the four divisional playoff games:
Minnesota 34, Dallas 3
What We Liked: If Jason Witten (10 catches, 98 yards vs. Minnesota) had planned to convert to a full-time wide receiver before training camp, without shedding one single burly-man pound, he'd still qualify as a top-15 WR in fantasy drafts. And yes, this is the same Witten who many owners benched midway through the season, on the heels of six middling performances from Weeks 5-11. But now, with Miles Austin seeing more double teams, and Roy Williams' sad knack for going 60 minutes without a catch (more on that later), Witten has re-emerged as a true fantasy force. Hmmmm ... wonder if he'll be the No. 1 tight end in preseason magazines?
What We Loved: Here's a fair question to ponder: If Sidney Rice (6 catches, 141 yards, 3 TDs) had access to Brett Favre (234 passing yards, 4 TDs) for another 7-8 seasons, would he eventually be a rock-solid candidate for the Hall of Fame? Conversely, if Favre had ties to the modern-day Rice from 1996-2004 ... would Favre own more than one Super Bowl ring? Whatever the case, Favre and Rice (or Rice and Favre) are the undisputed kings of the Divisional Playoffs -- despite the fact that only Favre graces the cover of this week's Revelations (above).
What We Loathed: So this is what Tony Romo looks like against great defenses on the road -- in win-or-go-home situations? No matter how you slice it, 198 yards, zero TDs and one interception isn't going to feed the bulldog in real-world or fantasy football. But then again, it's not like the Cowboys would ever dream of replacing Romo in the fall -- even with Stephen McGee on the roster ... or the specter of a salary cap-less season ahead. Speaking of 2010, Romo is, at best, the No. 10 QB in fantasy circles ... with a possible No. 12 ranking (behind Ben Roethlisberger) if Favre returns to the Vikings.
What We Loathed, Part II: Roy Williams with zero catches? Patrick Crayton with just two catches for 17 yards? Marion Barber tallying only 14 yards while playing in his boyhood state of Minnesota? Yikes!
What Made Us Indifferent: Adrian Peterson may have finished with only 82 yards, but you had to respect the pained look on his face every time he almost broke off a huge run against Dallas. But don't worry, fantasy owners: AP is a lead-pipe cinch for 120 total yards and one touchdown in the NFC title game. Boom!
What We'll Remember on Draft Day: Felix Jones (91 total yards vs. Minnesota) is on a certifiable roll right now and could easily be the Cowboys' every-down back in the not-too-distant future. But we're not jumping on the starting bandwagon just yet -- partly due to Marion Barber's expected return to prominence, Tashard Choice's sneaky-good fantasy potential ... and that we were horribly burned by Felix in not one -- but two Points Per Reception leagues this season. IF ONLY Felix could have recaptured his mojo back in August ... perhaps we'd be counting our championships, instead of wondering which RB stud (Peterson, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Michael Turner, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson) will fall into our lap at No. 6 next August.
New Orleans 45, Arizona 14
What We Liked: Marques Colston and Devery Henderson both get major kudos for eclipsing the 80-yard, 1-TD threshold, even if Henderson's score came on a surreptitious flea-flicker ... and Colston couldn't match the legendary TD output of Reggie Bush. But it was enough to satisfy the fantasy masses -- especially those with an eye toward Minnesota next week.
What We Liked, Part II: We're above poo-poohing Tim Hightower's 114-yard day on Saturday, which included a 70-yard jaunt on the game's first play from scrimmage. What else could one expect when only seeing the ball nine times? Geesh!
What We Liked, Part III: 'Longevity' owners of Larry Fitzgerald (6 catches, 77 yards) shouldn't fret too much here. After all, he posted 12 catches, 159 yards and a pair of TDs in two games. As for 'survivor' leaguers ... here's hoping you used up Fitz's eligibility in the Wild Card round.
What We Loved: The Cardinals deserve a medal for enduring two seasons of Anquan Boldin contract rants -- either from Boldin or on-again, off-again superagent Drew Rosenhaus -- without doling out another lucrative extension. And now, as a reward for their patience, they're finally in the position to cut the cord with Boldin in the offseason (presumably via trade) ... and hand the receiving keys to Early Doucet (8 catches, 68 yards) and Steve Breaston (4 catches, 52 yards). (For the record, we're not advocating that Boldin take his high-wire act to another team next year, especially if Kurt Warner returns. Lord knows his chances of making the Hall of Fame someday are higher when sharing the spotlight with Fitzgerald ... as opposed to being The Man in Tennesseee, Miami or Chicago. We're just saying that Arizona would effectively get by with Doucet and Breaston playing prominent roles.)
What We Really Loved: Reggie Bush may never fully convince the masses that he should've been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. (Charley Casserly was right about Mario Williams.) Also, he might never evolve into an every-down, between-the-tackles back for the high-powered Saints. But who are we to find fault with Bush's 217 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against the Cards? And what about the way he finished all the runs that didn't result in touchdowns? Bottom line: New Orleans would be crazy to drop Bush and his $13.5 million salary in 2010 ... and fantasy owners would be insane to let him slip past Round 3 in PPRs.
What Made Us Indifferent: Pierre Thomas' 70-yard contribution doesn't get much play here, aside from saying the Saints tailback MUST be an effective inside runner against the Vikings next week. In other words, New Orleans cannot lean on Bush's heroics again, when facing arguably the best run defense in the league.
What We're Choosing To Ignore: Even if Kurt Warner had thrown for 450 yards and four touchdowns against New Orleans (instead of 205 and zero TDs) ... it still wouldn't matter in the long term, since we're convinced that Warner will retire in the coming weeks. We're also choosing to block out Matt Leinart's 61-yard passing day in spot duty. Next year, for better or worse, will be a completely different animal for Leinart, the starter ... not Leinart, the little-used backup.
What We're Choosing To Ignore, Part II: Beanie Wells is wayyyyyy too talented to finish with seven rushing yards in a potentially life-changing playoff game. But unless he's planning to wear a blindfold in select games next year, he's still a lead-pipe cinch for 85 yards and 0.5 TDs week-in and week-out.
What We'll Remember on Draft Day: At the very least, Drew Brees (247 passing yards, 3 TDs) will be the No. 2 QB taken in standard-scoring leagues (behind Aaron Rodgers and likely ahead of Peyton Manning/Tom Brady). That bodes well for the fantasy owner who astutely recognizes Brees' six juicy games with NFC South foes ... and four awe-inspiring clashes with the NFC West. Throw in dates with Minnesota and Cleveland, and Brees is a sneaky-good prospect for 4,800 passing yards.
N.Y. Jets 17, San Diego 14
What We Liked: Chargers TE Antonio Gates (8 catches, 93 yards) and WR Vincent Jackson (7 catches, 111 yards) deserve some credit for posting solid fantasy numbers; but at the same time, they were hardly difference-makers for a club that was obviously carrying the cumbersome weight of Super Bowl-or-bust expectations in the second half. For everyone who had Gates and/or V-Jax on their 'longevity' posteason leagues ... we hope that fine line between winning and losing a championship doesn't come down to whether or not Jackson scored at the Jets' 1 on his final reception. (San Diego didn't have time to call for a review ... and one play later, Philip Rivers scored on a keeper.)
What We Liked, Part II: Speaking of Rivers (302 combined yards, 2 total TDs) ... there's no fantasy shame from Sunday's performance. Eclipsing 300 yards against the Jets is not an every-week occurrence in the NFL -- especially with the threat of Darrelle Revis looming on each pass. And as far as we can tell, Rivers is a reliable lock to be among the first five quarterbacks in standard-scoring drafts, trailing only Rodgers, Brees and Peyton Manning. Sorry, Mr. Brady.
What We Loved: For a second straight week, Jets rookie RB Shonn Greene (132 total yards, 1 TD) has stolen the playoff hearts of New York fans; he's also making a strong case for fantasyland MVP in postseason leagues. Of course, he'll probably need to reach the Super Bowl to make that dream a reality ... but he seems like a solid choice for 100 yards/1 TD against Indy on Championship Sunday.
What We Loathed: How much time ya got for this mini-section? The list is long and prominent, starting with Jerricho Cotchery (3 catches, 25 yards) and Braylon Edwards (2 catches, 41 yards) -- neither of whom resembled a Round 6-or-higher pick for next year's drafts.
What We Loathed, Part II: After Sunday's meek showing, we'll be shocked if LaDainian Tomlinson (24 total yards) is San Diego's No. 1 tailback next season (his Yards Per Carry was under 3.0 in '09). We'll also be stunned if LT's wearing a Chargers uniform come September. That's not to say he cannot be productive for another club in a time-share role ... but his days of being a no-brainer pick for Round 1 are loooooong gone.
What We Loathed, Part III: Yes, Dustin Keller managed to squeeze a touchdown out of three catches for 19 yards; but looking ahead to next year, he has done nothing to earn a spot in the top-15 rankings amongst tight ends. Bottom line: His inexplicable disapperance from Weeks 13-17 still resonates with skeptical fantasy owners.
What We're Choosing To Ignore: Backup RB Darren Sproles produced 63 total yards on just six touches. How could we possibly find fault with that?
What We're Choosing To Ignore, Part II: At this point in his career, no one should expect monster numbers from Mark Sanchez (100 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) ... or any real-world playoff victories. (Oh wait, scratch that last remark).
What We'll Remember on Draft Day: It probably doesn't matter if Thomas Jones (41 rushing yards) re-signs with the Jets in the offseason. With Shonn Greene's sudden emergence, few fantasy owners would care to invest a Round 5 or higher pick on Jones, The Jet in standard-scoring drafts (unless they already had the Greene handcuff). And if Jones, The Non-Jet joins forces with a franchise that's devoid of quality O-linemen, he'll invariably get bumped a few notches on the tailback totem pole, as well. When it's all said and done, Jones probably has 6th-round value ... even though he deserves a far better fate.
Indianapolis 20, Baltimore 3
What We Liked: The race for next year's No. 2 receiver in Indy has already begun, in effect, with Austin Collie (4 catches, 52 yards, 1 TD) grabbing a slight lead over Pierre Garcon (5 catches, 34 yards), Anthony Gonzalez or whichever dimaond-in-the rough gets chosen on draft day. In PPR leagues, Collie clearly gets the nod; in standard-scoring and TD-only leagues, Garcon seems like the better choice ... given his penchant for scoring in bushels (at least in the short term).
What We Liked, Part II: Indy got plenty of love this weekend (and deservedly so) for holding Baltimore to 270 yards of total offense, while yielding only 87 rushing yards. But let's not forget that Ray Rice amassed 127 total yards on just 22 touches. Perhaps that's why Rice is a top-5 lock in standard-scoring drafts ... and a possible No. 2 overall in PPRs (behind Chris Johnson).
What We Liked, Part III: Peyton Manning's 246-yard, 2-TD night won't erase memories of Kurt Warner or Aaron Rodgers from Wild Card Weekend (10 combined TDs, including Rodgers' keeper score) ... but when viewed through the prism of the typically stout Ravens defense, it qualifies as a strong effort. Here's why: For 'survivor' leagues, where owners can only choose a player once during the postseason, it's highly doubtful that someone would have wasted Manning on Baltimore. And for 'longevity' leagues, where owners are shooting for at least three postseason games from one particular star ... Manning is still on track for 6-8 cumulative TDs -- assuming Indy reaches the Super Bowl.
What We Loved: For the 'longevity' leaguer who didn't have any Saints, Cardinals or Packers in their 9-man lineup ... your hopes for an out-of-the-blue postseason title are now connected to Adrian Peterson and Reggie Wayne. And true to form, Wayne rewarded his loyal fan base with eight catches for 63 yards and one TD against the Ravens. Here's hoping he'll duplicate that production against the Chargers, er, J-E-T-S on Championship Sunday.
What We Loathed: There's no point in sugarcoating the following: Colts tailbacks Joseph Addai and Donald Brown have no business totaling just 62 yards in a blowout playoff game ... and we'll leave it at that. Tsk-tsk.
What We Loathed, Part II: Just six days after declaring that Willis McGahee had fully regained his circa-2005 mojo -- in terms of power, speed and explosion -- we're left holding the bag on a 14-yard effort that didn't include the customary short-range touchdown. D'oh!
What We're Choosing To Ignore: Obviously, Joe Flacco had a miserable fantasy playoffs (zero TD passes in two games). But it won't deter us from attaching favored-backup status to Flacco's 3x5 draft card come August. Bottom line: Outside of superstars like Brees, Brady, P-Manning, Rodgers, Rivers, McNabb, Romo, Schaub, Favre, Warner and Big Ben, no other quarterback has the capacity for five games of 3-plus TDs next year.
What Made Us Indifferent: Dallas Clark could usurp Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Brent Celek as the No. 1 tight end in PPR drafts, but all bets are off in standard-scoring leagues ... unless you're able to rationalize DC's eight combined catches for 62 yards and one TD in two '09 outings against the Ravens.
What We'll Remember on Draft Day: Assuming Derrick Mason (4 catches, 64 yards) returns to Baltimore in 2010 ... he'll ultimately bring No. 1/2 WR value with owners -- for the low, low price of a Round 10 investment. Here's why: Faced with an easy-cheesy slate of home patsies next season (Buffalo, Denver, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Miami, etc.), D-Mason is a lead-pipe cinch for 47 catches, 678 yards and five TDs exclusively at MB&T Bank Stadium (the Ravens' lair). Tell us you wouldn't kill for that WR production in Round 6 ... let alone four rounds later?
Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night (@SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday and Monday during the NFL season.
There won't be a repeat of the FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year this time around, unfortunately. But let's be honest (and a tad obnoxious): Fantasy Clicks will always be the No. 1 home for the most insightful, anecdotal, passionate and humorous fantasy info in the marketplace ... even if some Revelations read like War And Peace (thanks, Sara Holladay) and some judges cannot wrap their heads around fantasy-related jokes involving Calvin Johnson and Cliff Clavin of Cheers fame, referencing the classic 'Jeopardy' episode.
(Memo to self: Silver Spoons or Mr. Belevdere tie-ins for the 2010 awards ... need not apply!)