Is it telling that I can use any of the remaining Super Bowl permutations and none would surprise you? There are no Cardinals, there's not even a story like the Saints left here. We have a season where the favorites have, for the most part, done what they were supposed to do. Instead of doing something unexpected, these teams have just avoided the traps along the way. They've had distractions, injuries, challenges, and all the things that every team faces in some dose ... but here they are. There's no new coaches here. There's not much turnover in coordinators, either. There's no new QBs. Aside from injury, it's relatively easy to predict things within a broad range, but it's that range that makes things so difficult. There's something to be said for a strategy that would focus only on playoff contenders, though it would be a better strategy to focus on consistency. Injury will mess with any plan, but if you're looking for one of the few remaining fantasy arbitrage opportunities, it's in properly valuing consistency. That's not happening just yet, but this could be a long offseason, offering up opportunities for lots of research, mock drafts and trials. For now, let's fast forward around the playoffs:
If there's any pattern we see besides consistency, it's the presence of first-round QBs. Tom Brady and Matt Hasselbeck hold out hope for sixth-rounders, but also show just how these teams have stayed good so long -- by filling in the gaps behind even the most entrenched starters. Remember, it was the Packers that drafted both Hasselbeck and Rodgers while Brett Favre was around. Mark Sanchez, like Jay Cutler, is good enough, but as a very high pick, I'm not sure he's ever going to match his value on-field. He can handle the pressure of being in New York, so that's certainly worth something, and he does have some kind of extra gear in the playoffs. The Jets were able to play a more passive style as their opponents continue to allow Darrelle Revis to turn football into a 10-on-10 game. This isn't a slight on Revis, who demands that kind of respect, but it's gone from respect to some kind of
That rumble you hear is the bandwagon change. While the Falcons were always a bit under the radar for how well they played this season, it was amazing how quickly things shifted in a matchup that was tipped as even. The Falcons should have had an advantage in the running game, but it was neutralized, both by defense and by the score. The Falcons should have been even -- or within range of Aaron Rodgers these days -- on QB play, but it was a real mismatch as Matt Ryan looked rattled early. There's little question that Rodgers will be one of the top-three QBs picked next season, but does this game tell us anything more about Ryan? Ryan rates as the No. 9 overall scorer and No. 8 QB. (Yes, nine of the top-10 scorers in all of football were QBs, which is why you don't draft one too early. Then again, the definition of "too early" keeps changing.)
To give you an idea, Ryan scored about 50 points less than Brady and Rodgers this season, or about three points a game. Ryan had a very consistent season, never scoring more than 24, but never less than eight (Week 1 vs the Steelers.) Rodgers had more big games, missed a couple, but in fantasy, consistency has real value. Ryan is going to be brutally undervalued next season. Matthew Berry of ESPN gives us some idea with
There's really not much to take away from this game that we didn't already know. Like their many intra-division meetings, this one was less defensively focused, but came down to execution and turnovers -- the way most games with even talent turn. The Ravens lost again, in a disheartening fashion, but with both teams, there's very little sign that there's a need for anything more than a continuation rather than any sort of big change. The Ravens are playing in the Steelers' shadow, as Peter King put it, but they're hardly seeing their window of opportunity closing. Ray Lewis doesn't look like he's slowing down. Ray Rice and Joe Flacco are growing and learning. Baltimore could be looking to shore up its interior line and wouldn't Mike Pouncey be a perfect fit, either at center or guard? The Steelers are much the same and by beating the Ravens, might have missed out on a second Pouncey. Both teams will go not so much with the "best player available" as the best player for their system. These teams will continue to be contenders, though those same systems subsume some of their stars' fantasy potential.
People love the Cinderella story, but as Aaron Schatz of
Injuries can happen any time, but at the end of Saturday's game, two Packers ended up with concussions. John Kuhn got his on a TD reception, while B.J. Raji got one late. I can grasp why Raji, a defensive mainstay is in the game in a blowout, but at what stage do we see backups or at least a rotation? Is there some sort of sliding scale of points and minutes left that coaches can use like their "go for two" cheat sheet? ... The Dennis Byrd