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Tony Nowak | Archive | Email
Staff Writer


IDP Notes
Week 17
12/28/11

No Byes or Early Games: Last week of regular season, everyone plays on Sunday, New Year’s Day.

Week 17 Implications
For those of you playing in leagues that go through this week, as usual the main concern is how much time players will see if their team is out or can’t improve their playoff positions. Below is the breakdown of who has something to play for and who doesn’t…

All or nothing: New York Giants and Dallas face each other, winner is NFC East division champ, loser is out. This makes for a great SNF game – the rest of the league will be settled and the last regular season game of the year becomes a de facto playoff.

On the bubble: Denver and Oakland are battling to be the AFC division champ, Denver controls their own fate, but Oakland can still get a wild card if they win with help – both play at the same time, so won’t know their situation before the game; Cincinnati, New York Jets and Tennessee are battling for an AFC wild card, with only the Bengals controlling their own fate, but also can get it with help.

Playoff teams with aspirations: San Francisco win clinches NFC No. 2 seed; New Orleans win or tie + SF loss for NFC No. 2 seed, and both play at same time; New England has a bye, but needs a win or tie (or help if they lose) to clinch the No. 1 seed; Baltimore and Pittsburgh are both at least wild cards, one will be the AFC North division champ (Baltimore has the advantage, they just need to win) and could be the AFC No. 2 seed with help – both play at the same time

Playoff teams with nothing to play for: Green Bay clinched NFC No. 1 seed; Detroit and Atlanta locked up the NFC wild cards and can’t win their divisions; Houston is the South division champ, but can’t get the No. 2 seed.

Teams eliminated from playoffs, nothing but pride to play for: Arizona, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Washington

Pro Bowl
The NFL released the Pro Bowl rosters on Tuesday; they are on the left side of the chart below. On the right side, I assembled a Fantasy IDP Pro Bowl roster (based on FF Today Default scoring), with a few caveats. First, conference doesn’t matter for most fantasy leagues, so I ignored it. Next, some players have position conflicts, e.g. Terrell Suggs. As FF Today and myfantasyleague.com (the best league site to use for IDP) consider Suggs a DE, I listed him there (by the same token, the actual NFL squeezed Justin Smith in as a DT). Finally, I added a row for more inside linebackers and strong safeties, since the actual NFL shorts those positions.

 All Pros: Real vs. Fantasy
Pos. AFC - Actual NFC - Actual All-IDP First Team All-IDP Second Team
DE Dwight Freeney, IND Jared Allen, MIN Jared Allen, MIN Cliff Avril, DET
Andre Carter, NE Jason Babin, PHI Jason Pierre-Paul, NYG Jason Babin, PHI
Elvis Dumervil, DEN Jason Pierre-Paul, NYG Terrell Suggs, BAL Calais Campbell, AZ
DT Haloti Ngata, BAL Justin Smith, SF Haloti Ngata, BAL Ahtyba Rubin, CLE
Vince Wilfork, NE Jay Ratliff, DAL Geno Atkins, CIN Vince Wilfork, NE
Richard Seymour, OAK B.J. Raji, GB Tommy Kelly, OAK Phil Taylor, CLE
ILB Ray Lewis, BAL Patrick Willis, SF London Fletcher, WAS Derrick Johnson, KC
Derrick Johnson, KC Brian Urlacher, CHI DíQwell Jackson, CLE Navorro Bowman, SF
James Laurinaitis, STL Nick Barnett, BUF
OLB Terrell Suggs, BAL DeMarcus Ware, DAL James Anderson, CAR Sean Weatherspoon, ATL
Von Miller, DEN Clay Matthews, GB DeMarcus Ware, DAL Von Miller, DEN
Tamba Hali, KC Lance Briggs, CHI Chad Greenway, MIN Daryl Smith, JAX
CB Darrelle Revis, NYJ Charles Woodson, GB Charles Woodson, GB Lardarius Webb, BAL
Champ Bailey, DEN Carlos Rogers, SF Charles Tillman, CHI Jason McCourty, TEN
Johnathan Joseph, HOU Charles Tillman, CHI Kyle Arrington, NE Brandon Browner, SEA
FS Ed Reed, BAL Earl Thomas, SEA Jairus Byrd, BUF Eric Weddle, SD
Eric Weddle, SD Dashon Goldson, SF Reggie Nelson, CIN Antoine Bethea, IND
SS Troy Polamalu, PIT Adrian Wilson, AZ Roman Harper, NO Morgan Burnett, GB
Kam Chancellor, SEA George Wilson, BUF

The first thing that jumps out to me is the AFC defensive ends. Dwight Freeney on that roster is the biggest deference to past history v. actual 2011 performance on the roster. Itís a joke. The interesting thing is, you have to dig deep to find worthy candidates. Part of it is scheme. Nine of 16 AFC teams play base 3-4 compared to five of 16 NFC teams, so itís no surprise the top pass rushing ends are predominantly from the NFC. Regardless, a number of players deserved the call over Freeney, including teammate Robert Mathis, Jeremy Mincey, who emerged despite Jacksonvilleís best efforts to keep him buried with questionable free agent additions like Aaron Kampman and Matt Roth, and a pair of rookies: Jabaal Sheard and J.J. Watt, the former doing it despite the statistical handicap of playing in a 3-4. On the NFC side, itís hard to argue with the choices, just too bad there isnít room for Cliff Avril, Calais Campbell and Julius Peppers.

At DT for the AFC, Geno Atkins is the biggest snub. He may be the biggest snub on either roster, period. Atkins has progressed from standing out as an interior pass rusher to being a complete disruptive force on a full-time basis this year. He is the type of presence inside the front four that helps the rest of any defense. While Justin Smith is deserving of recognition in the NFC, as I already mentioned, he shouldnít be considered a DT. I might prefer Cullen Jenkins as a true DT choice, although he started strong, but faded down the stretch as he was dinged up.

Ray Lewis missed a quarter of the season, and Iím not sure heíd deserve if even if he hadnít Ė not sure how you justify that pick. If DíQwell Jackson wasnít the defensive comeback player of the year, then Nick Barnett would be, and either one deserve it over Lewis for the AFC. In the NFC, it isnít that Brian Urlacher and Patrick Willis are bad choices, there are simply better ones. Iíve previously written about London Fletcher being the most consistent player, at a high level, in the history of football. This year was no different, so unlike Lewis, it would be far from a career achievement reward. At 36, he looks all but certain to lead the league in tackles, is still solid in coverage, and makes big plays (a pair of sacks, a pair of picks and three forced fumbles). The lack of respect for him is incomprehensible. In St. Louis, ironically where Fletcher got his start, James Laurinaitis is emerging as the heir to Fletcherís consistency throne. The wrong 49er ILB made it, as well. Sure Bowman benefits from playing next to Willis and the focus he attracts, but Bowman took advantage of that in being much more productive and emerged as an impressive player in his own right.

Stud pass rushers get the advantage at OLB, but itís time to recognize Chad Greenway in the NFC. Also, Sean Weatherspoon has emerged as the stud he was expected to be and James Anderson proved he was no fluke last year. Iíd consider all three before Clay Matthews. I know Matthews has an impact beyond his numbers, but he was too inconsistent for me this year. Aldon Smith looks a lock to be here next year. In the AFC, LaMarr Woodley was just as dominant as the rest, when healthy, but that was the problem. Struggling with injury the second half of the season makes it impossible to justify a spot for him. I also give it to Connor Barwin over Hali, especially when you factor in what heís done, and how critical it was, since Mario Williams went down.

I love the selections at NFC cornerback, Woodson is a no-brainer, he remains the premier playmaker at the position (even if he misses some plays gambling on the big play), while Tillman finally gets the recognition he deserves and the light went on for Rogers after switching coasts. Those two seemed destined to be obvious snubs, so itís great to see them make it, unfortunately that leaves no room for Chris Gamble. Typically Gamble puts up decent numbers, but seemed to underachieve as a cover corner with his vast athletic ability. However, this year the numbers faded some as he jumped an improperly-utilized Nnamdi Asomugha to be second only to Darrelle Revis as a shutdown corner. I can argue bumping Rogers for Gamble. In the AFC, Champ Bailey is another career achievement nod. Lardarius Webb was a significant snub. He is a playmaker, but not at the expense of being too big of a gambler Ė he hasnít allowed a TD this season. Note AZ rookie CB Patrick Peterson also made the Pro Bowl, but as a return specialist.

Ed Reed is another perennial AFC Pro Bowler who just didnít deserve it this year. Heís mostly a one-trick pony at this stage of his career, and while still a great ball hawk, his age and health have taken away consistent dominance. Ryan Clark has been a steady, but unspectacular, compliment to Troy Polamalu, but I thought Clark stepped out of Polamaluís shadow and had an exceptional season this year. Adrian Wilson bounced back from injury this year, but didnít deserve it over Roman Harper or Morgan Burnett in the NFC.

Defensive Line

  • One of the most entertaining statistical chases this year has been for the sack title and a half-sack separates the top three players going in to the final game. With a sack on Saturday, MIN DE Jared Allen recaptured the lead with 18.5 on the season. PHI DE Jason Babin was held sackless on Saturday at Dallas, but with 8 in the previous three games, is in second with 18 after that late-season surge. On the other side of that game, DAL OLB DeMarcus Ware, last year's sack champ, had a pair to tie Babin with 18 sacks. Already far and away career highs for Allen and Babin, Ware became in 2008 just the seventh player with 20 sacks in a season, since it became an official statistic in 1982. All three men not only look to join that club this week, but will be going all out for the long shot of breaking Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22.5 sacks. In handicapping the race, Allen (v. CHI) and Babin (v. WAS) seem to have the advantage, playing in meaningless games against two teams among the league leaders in sacks allowed. Regardless of the opponent, I would expect Allen to win this race on sheer force of will. It has been an extremely disappointing year in Minnesota, where Allen has single-handedly won or kept them in game they otherwise had no business in. Not only the sack title, but likely the Defensive Player of the Year award is on the line for Allen, and the whole team will be out to help him get them what will be one of the few highlights of the season.

  • NYG DE Justin Tuck had his fourth sack of the season and besides a goose egg in Week 14, has been decent this month as he's struggled with lingering injury problems all season. The team will need him for a big game on Sunday night, as Osi Umenyiora missed his fourth game with an ankle injury and isn't expected to play this week. DE Jason Pierre-Paul kept on rolling, racking up 2 more sacks, giving him 15.5 on the season, fourth in the league and just out of reach for the sack title (see the trio discussed above).

  • A disappointing end to a bounce-back season for NE DE Andre Carter. After getting back to playing mostly his preferred way, with his hand on the ground, Carter returned to double-digit sacks with the Pats, but is done for the year with a torn quad.

Linebacker

  • The recent production of DEN rookie OLB Von Miller has been hampered by the torn ligaments in his right thumb. He held sackless for back-to-back games for the first time this season and has just one since missing his only game in Week 13. He is stuck at 11.5 sacks on the season. Meanwhile, SF OLB Aldon Smith has opened the seemingly closed door for DROY debate with 6.5 sacks in his last four games. Smith has jumped Miller to lead all rookies with 14 sacks (fifth in the league overall). I think Miller ultimately wins the award, as he has garnered significantly more pub, and Smith hasn't been limited to a situational role most of the season, not starting from Week 1 like Miller, and less consistent. For fantasy purposes, I'd rather have Smith than Miller going this week, though.

  • SF ILB Patrick Willis will be a dreaded game-time decision this week as he continues to battle a hamstring. Same for PIT OLB LaMarr Woodley, although he sounds more doubtful to play.

  • GB ILB Desmond Bishop returned after missing the previous three games with a calf injury and racked up double-digit tackles for the fifth time this season.

Defensive Back

  • AZ rookie CB Patrick Peterson strained his left Achilles' tendon and is day-to-day. I'd be surprised if the Cardinals risk one of their top assets in a meaningless game this weekÖsee WAS S LaRon Landry for where pushing this type of problem gets you. On that note, Landry is reportedly looking in to getting surgery on his troublesome Achilles' tendon after pushing the surgery off last year and trying to just let it heal for fear of missing more time going down the surgery route.

  • Productive CHI CB Tim Jennings was benched after a brutal game against Seattle. Zack Bowman replaced him and had a worse day. Jennings should be back in this week.

  • DEN SS Brian Dawkins continues to have neck problems and likely shouldn't play this week, but may unfortunately try to live up to his tough guy image if doctors don't stop him. Rookie FS Quinton Carter pulled a hamstring on Saturday and is also very questionable. Fellow rookie Rahim Moore would get a starting shot back if Carter can't go and David Bruton should be at SS if Dawkins can't play either.

  • PHI CB Asante Samuel sounds likely to miss another game with a hamstring, so Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would replace him again.