January 04, 2010
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Antonio Gates (85) and Philip Rivers: Harry How/Getty Images
So, you're a fantasy "bridesmaid" once again, huh? You cruised through the regular season and early rounds of the league playoffs ... only to be unwittingly foiled by a Fred Davis garbage-time reception in Week 16 against Dallas for 11 yards -- even though it looked like a 12-yard catch ... and because you needed EXACTLY 12 yards to pull off a fantasy title (this happened to SI.com's Jeff Ritter)? All this heartache is enough to leave you crying in your car or shower -- just like this hilarious NFL.com ad. But it should also serve as the requisite motivation to make amends for a hollow 2009 ... by re-investing your heart and soul into the various fantasy playoff leagues on the Web -- including the SI/Facebook Postseason Fantasy Football game.

But first things first. Before you blindly accept the rules and terms of a fantasy playoff league -- ANY playoff league -- allow us to break down the fundamental and strategic differences of standard postseason (or "longevity") leagues and weekly one-and-done (or "survivor") leagues, like the SI/Facebook one:
Longevity Leagues

General Tenets
1. You MUST pick your entire team before the wild card games begin on Saturday
2. Your lineup will remain unchanged throughout the playoffs

Rules to Live By
1. It's all about the Three-Game Quest: Before choosing players (even a semi-obvious pick like QB Drew Brees), ask yourself this simple question: Are my guys strong favorites to reach the Super Bowl or -- at the very least -- conference championship round? Regardless of how some superstars may look on paper (like Bengals RB Cedric Benson or ailing Patriots QB Tom Brady), it's essentially a wasted pick if they're not locks for 2-3 playoff games.

Case in point: Three years ago, I correctly pegged the Colts and Bears for the Super Bowl and subsequently loaded up on Indy stars like Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, Reggie Wayne and then-Chicago RB Thomas Jones and WR Bernard Berrian. These five players produced 18 combined playoff games -- easily enough to provide yours truly with a welcomed fantasy crown.

2. Don't be afraid to take risks: We're willing to bet that 80 percent of the owners will choose Adrian Peterson; and to be fair, he's a strong, intelligent play in January -- should Minnesota reach the Super Bowl. But it might also be beneficial to pursue players like DeSean Jackson, Ryan Grant, Randy Moss, Ray Rice, while taking the chance that Philly, Green Bay, New England or Baltimore will make it to a conference championship (and beyond) ... and that Minnesota falls in the divisional playoffs.

3. Elementary speaking ... always factor in the elements: At the risk of sounding like a broken record from the regular season, weather should always play a role in starting picks. All things being equal, we'd rather have a QB performing in a warm, comfy dome (Kurt Warner) or sunny climate (Philip Rivers) over one struggling in the wind, cold, rain and snow (Mark Sanchez or Tom Brady). Especially if Brady indeed has a broken finger and three cracked ribs, while trying to overcome the loss of pass-catching extraordinaire Wes Welker (likely ACL/MCL tear from Sunday's game).

Longevity League Dream Team

Rationale: You're shooting for guys who'll go at least three games in all cases:
QB: Philip Rivers
RBs: Adrian Peterson/LaDainian Tomlinson
WRs: Vincent Jackson/Sidney Rice
RB/WR Flex: DeSean Jackson
TE: Antonio Gates
K: Nate Kaeding
D/ST: Minnesota Vikings

One & Done Playoff Pools

General Tenets
1. You can pick a new set of players before all four playoff rounds
2. However, you can only choose a particular player once during the playoffs

Rules to Live By
1. Stay one step ahead of the competition: Hypothetically speaking, let's say the Jets (@ Cincinnati) are the first ones bounced from the Super Bowl race. Consequently, this week serves as the only chance to use RB Thomas Jones or WR Jerricho Cotchery. And if you think this round shall be Kurt Warner's swan song ... then by all means, play him over Tom Brady or Carson Palmer -- and save these QB studs for another playoff day.

2. Pull out all the stops: Fantasy owners should shoot for the moon in every playoff round. Try to maximize your scoring at every turn. On the other hand ...

3. Don't be left holding the bag on Super Bowl Sunday, either: If you believe Philip Rivers and Brett Favre will be the starting QBs on the first Sunday in February ... then it'd be wise to keep one of 'em on the sidelines during the AFC/NFC playoffs. In other words, don't be stuck with Billy Volek or Tarvaris Jackson as the only QB options come Super Bowl time.

One & Done Dream Team -- Wild Card Round

Rationale: If a player can only be used once during the playoffs, why not go with a stud who'll come up big in Wild Card Weekend ... in his team's losing effort? OR, why not go with a Cincinnati rolling pin whose club will likely get crushed against Indy for Divisional Playoff Weekend?
QB: Kurt Warner
RBs: Ray Rice/Cedric Benson
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald/Randy Moss
RB/WR Flex: Ryan Grant
TE: Jason Witten
K: Mason Crosby
D/ST: Cincinnati Bengals

Playoff Picks

At some point before Saturday, we recommend sitting down for five minutes and brainstorming the real-world playoff winners, game by game, round by round. Something like this:

Wild Card
Cincinnati over N.Y. Jets
Philadelphia over Dallas
New England over Baltimore
Green Bay over Arizona

Divisional Playoffs
Indianapolis over Cincinnati
San Diego over New England
Philadelphia over New Orleans
Minnesota over Green Bay

Conference Championships
Minnesota over Philadelphia
San Diego over Indianapolis

Super Bowl
San Diego over Minnesota

QB Rankings -- Wild Card Round

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Donovan McNabb, Eagles
3. Tom Brady, Patriots
4. Tony Romo, Cowboys
5. Kurt Warner, Cardinals
6. Joe Flacco, Ravens
7. Carson Palmer, Bengals
8. Mark Sanchez, Jets

Top 12 Running Backs -- Wild Card

1. Cedric Benson, Bengals
2. Ryan Grant, Packers
3. Ray Rice, Ravens
4. Marion Barber, Cowboys
5. Thomas Jones, Jets
6. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
7. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
8. Laurence Maroney, Patriots
9. Willis McGahee, Ravens
10. Fred Taylor, Patriots
11. Brian Westbrook, Eagles
12. Tim Hightower, Cardinals

Top 12 Wide Receivers -- Wild Card
DeSean Jackson: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

1. Greg Jennings, Packers
2. DeSean Jackson, Eagles
3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
4. Randy Moss, Patriots
5. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals
6. Miles Austin, Cowboys
7. Derrick Mason, Ravens
8. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets
9. Jason Avant, Eagles
10. Donald Driver, Packers
11. Anquan Boldin/Steve Breaston, Cards (play Breaston if Boldin cannot play)
12. Julian Edelman, Patriots

Target Practice

If you've been reading Clicks all season, then you understand the obsession with Targets (the number of times a receiver is thrown to) and how it should directly affect your choices at the WR slot. So, without further ado, here are the 21 wideouts (including the fallen Wes Welker) who've registered at least 27 targets from NFL Weeks 13-17:

1. Wes Welker, Patriots (53 Targets -- but likely out with torn ACL)
2. Miles Austin, Cowboys (51 Targets)
3. Anquan Boldin, Cardinals (43 Targets)
4. Sidney Rice, Vikings (43)
5. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (40)
6. Greg Jennings, Packers (39)
7. Derrick Mason, Ravens (38)
8. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals (38)
9. Malcom Floyd, Chargers (37)
10. DeSean Jackson, Eagles (35)
11. Robert Meachem, Saints (35)
12. Reggie Wayne, Colts (35)
13. Marques Colston, Saints (33)
14. Jerricho Cotchery, Jets (31)
15. Devery Henderson, Saints (31)
16. Donald Driver, Packers (30)
17. Braylon Edwards, Jets (30)
18. Vincent Jackson, Chargers (29)
19. Austin Collie, Colts (28)
20. Percy Harvin, Vikings (28)
21. Randy Moss, Patriots (27)

Tight End Rankings -- Wild Card Round

1. Brent Celek, Eagles
2. Jermichael Finley, Packers
3. Jason Witten, Cowboys
4. Todd Heap, Ravens
5. Ben Watson, Patriots
6. Stephen Spach, Cardinals
7. Dustin Keller, Jets
8. Daniel Coats, Eagles

Kicker Rankings -- Wild Card Round

1. Mason Crosby, Packers
2. Shayne Graham, Bengals
3. David Akers, Eagles
4. Jay Feely, Jets
5. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
6. Shaun Suisham, Cowboys
7. Neil Rackers, Cardinals
8. Billy Cundiff, Ravens

The Obligatory Y.E.S. Tease

Week 17 may have come and gone without much fantasy fanfare ... but that doesn't mean Sunday's events won't play a major role in shaping next year's pre-draft rankings -- as part of our Fantasy Clicks Year-End Spectacular for Wednesday. In this all-encompassing piece, we'll tackle hard-hitting debates, such as:

**Who's the consensus No. 1 pick -- Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson?
**Who's the bigger lock for Round 1 -- Jamaal Charles or Jerome Harrison?
**Which QB has the best shot at cracking the top-5 -- Matt Schaub or Donovan McNabb?
**Who'll be the No. 1 receiver -- Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson or Reggie Wayne?
**Is Brandon Marshall too much of a veg-head to be taken in Rounds 1/2/3 for PPR drafts?
**And ... who's the next great breakout star in fantasyland -- Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman, Shonn Greene, Knowshon Moreno, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson or Ole Miss senior tailback Dexter McCluster?

Survivor Game

There's nothing like a second chance in life, and the same thinking applies to fantasy football, as well. SI.com presents the ultimate fantasy game for owners whose dreams of a fantasy title went unfulfilled in the regular season, or the greedy owners who simply covet two championships in the same year: Facebook's Postseason Fantasy Football.

This test of fantasy survival is like no other game you've ever played, but it'll call on your keen abilities to predict the future -- one NFL week at a time. Are you game? Are you savvy enough to bring your fantasy expertise to a whole new level? This is a golden opportunity to win a slew of fantastic prizes, along with getting one last shot at redemption after taking Brian Westbrook in Round 1 of your regular season draft.

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