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Doug Orth | Archive | Email | Twitter
Staff Writer


Conference Championships
Road to the Super Bowl
1/19/12

Whether you are still basking in the success you enjoyed in cruising to your fantasy league's title, still smarting over your teams' inability to close the deal or not quite ready to hang up your owner's hat quite yet, playoff fantasy football may be just the thing you need to end this season right.

I'll be the first to admit that playoff fantasy football doesn't appeal to me quite as much as the usual 16-week marathon, but that doesn't mean I don't still enjoy it. And coming off my most profitable fantasy season yet, I'm looking to make a great season even better. For better or for worse, I want to share my experience with you (no matter which category mentioned in the first paragraph you may fall under) in hopes that some of you can end this season on a definite high note.

After winning one of my playoff money leagues last season, I’m ready for another shot at the dough. In addition to owning one NFL.com team, I will be taking part in several money leagues with Fuzzy's Fantasy Football. My goal over the next four weeks will be to help each of you through your decision-making process as you attempt to boost your bottom line.

NFL.com

For a complete rundown of how players will score fantasy points for your team, click on this link. However, much of the content immediately below is included on the “How to Play” page, so what I provide here should be more than enough to follow along easily.

The object of the game is to pick the players you think will perform best in their playoff matchup. Select one QB, two RBs, two WRs, one TE, one K and one D/ST. You will earn fantasy points based on their on-field performance during their game, and if your player's team wins, you will have the option to carry that player over to the next round, where he will earn a bonus point modifier to his score.

For example, if you pick Eli Manning in the Wild Card round and the Saints win, you can carry him over to the Conference Championships, and earn two times (2x) the points he earns in his divisional round game. If New Orleans wins again, you can carry Brees into the Conference Championship round for 3x the points, and if the Saints make the Super Bowl, you can earn 4x the points. In addition, a user can select a player/defense in the Wild Card round even if their team has a bye into the Conference Championships. In this case, the user would not earn any points for the Wild Card round, but would then be eligible to earn 2x points in the Conference Championships, since the player was on the team’s roster for two weekly scoring periods. Further bonus point modifiers would also apply as long as that player’s team continued in the NFL Playoffs.

 NFL.com Scoring System
Offense Statistic (QB, RB, WR, TE, K) Fantasy Points
Rushing or Receiving Touchdown: 6 fantasy points
Passing Touchdown: 4 fantasy points
Field Goal: 3 fantasy points
Passing, Rushing or Receiving Two-Point Conversion: 2 fantasy points
Rushing or Receiving: 1 fantasy point per 10 yards
Passing: 1 fantasy point per 25 yards
Extra Point: 1 fantasy point
Defense/Special Teams (D/ST)  
Punt Returned Touchdown: 6 fantasy points
Kickoff Returned Touchdown: 6 fantasy points
Fumble Returned Touchdown: 6 fantasy points
Interception Returned Touchdown: 6 fantasy points
Allowing 0 Points: 10 fantasy points
Allowing 2-6 Points: 7 fantasy points
Allowing 7-13 Points: 4 fantasy points
Allowing 14-17 Points: 1 fantasy points
Allowing 18-21 Points: 0 fantasy points
Allowing 22-27 Points: -1 fantasy points
Allowing 28-34 Points: -4 fantasy points
Allowing 35-45 Points: -7 fantasy points
Allowing 46+ Points: -10 fantasy points
Team Win: 5 fantasy points
Interception: 2 fantasy points
Fumble Recovery: 2 fantasy points
Blocked Punt: 2 fantasy points
Blocked Field Goal or Blocked Extra Point: 2 fantasy points
Safety: 2 fantasy points
Sack: 1 fantasy points

Before we get into the picks, let’s briefly review the rules and how we may use them to our advantage: 1) passing TDs are four points, so passing yards are valued more highly here than in the Fuzzy’s leagues I’ll discuss later; 2) all field goals are worth three points, which means we are more concerned about volume of field goals than distance; 3) this is a non-PPR format, which obviously favors the big-play threats; and 4) team wins are worth five points, so picking a “winning” defense is worth almost a touchdown and could be worth as much as 3.5 TDs if you pick a defense from this week and that team ends up winning the Super Bowl.

Given the bonus point modifier mentioned above, I could understand an owner making the decision to pass on selecting a defense this week and electing to get twice as many points from a defense such as the Ravens in the Conference Championships. (I’m not saying I would do that, just suggesting that it is a strategy to consider.)

Here are the most worthy candidates by position:

QBs
Tom Brady/Joe Flacco/Alex Smith/Eli Manning

RBs
BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead/Ray Rice/Frank Gore/Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs

WRs
Wes Welker/Deion Branch/Anquan Boldin/Torrey Smith/Michael Crabtree/Hakeem Nicks/Victor Cruz

TEs
Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski/Ed Dickson/Dennis Pitta/Vernon Davis/Jake Ballard

Ks
Stephen Gostkowski/Billy Cundiff/David Akers/Lawrence Tynes

DST
Patriots/Ravens/49ers/Giants

Note: With only two games this weekend, the explanations will be brief and focus primarily on the final 2-4 choices.

QB: Eli Manning (x1). With Baltimore and San Francisco favoring a more run-heavy approach (and needing to do so in order to win this week), expect unspectacular numbers from Flacco and Smith. This naturally leaves us with a Manning vs. Brady debate and, in all likelihood, my choice is probably somewhat surprising. Brady is probably the best bet to produce the loftiest numbers this week given the pass-heavy nature of the Patsí offensive attack, but if last week reminded us of anything, it is that balanced teams win in the playoffs more so than one-sided teams do. Of the four remaining teams, New England is the most incomplete team, despite what some people in the media might be saying after its rout of the Broncos. Iím not convinced the Pats found their defensive mojo against a heavily-flawed Denver offense and I canít imagine the Baltimore offense will look nearly as inept this week as it did vs. a talented Texans defense. In short, I still expect the Ravens to pull the upset and make Brady a one-week option. This leaves us with Manning and the Giants, who strike me as the best team left in the playoffs. While New Yorkís passing attack isnít at the level of New Orleansí, itís not so far off that Manning canít go for nearly 300 yards and 2-3 scores against the Niners. San Francisco figures to stop the run as it has all season, so it will be up to Manning and his trio of receivers to carry the day. And I like this selection even more considering that if I am wrong about the Pats losing to the Ravens, I have a hard time seeing Brady having a stellar game against the Giants whereas Manning should have his way with the Patriots.

RB: Ray Rice (x3) and Ahmad Bradshaw (x1). With the Patriotsí RBs being pushed aside by Aaron Hernandez and the emphasis on passing, I think we can safely write off their backfield (although I highly doubt Hernandez will receive two more carries the rest of the season). Gore is a decent option, but I canít see the Niners doing all that much offensively against the Giants and havenít really been overly impressed by Goreís explosion lately. Since I believe San Francisco will be done after this week, we are left with Rice Ė who Iíve had in my lineup since we started Ė and the two Giantsí runners. While it wouldnít come as a complete shock if Jacobs out-produced Bradshaw this week, Jacobsí value relies too heavily on whether or not he scores a rushing touchdown, something San Francisco is unlikely to surrender. Since Bradshaw is much more involved in the passing game than Jacobs and will stay in the game for certain goal-line packages, I will proceed with him.

WR: Anquan Boldin (x1) and Hakeem Nicks (x1). In a more perfect world, I would simply go with Welker and Nicks, no questions asked. However, the selection of Welker would indicate I expect New England to advance, which I do not. Since Iím also not crazy about his prospects going forward against three teams who are playing some of the best defense in the league right now, I believe he is best left unused. Branch is the fourth option in the Patsí passing attack and a poor bet to have a huge game, although he is virtually guaranteed single coverage vs. Baltimore. Even if I believed the Niners would advance, Iím not entirely sure I want to play any one of their WRs before I have to. Since Crabtree isnít the greatest bet to score in any given week, I would just as soon pass on him. Thus, we are left with receivers of the Ravens and Giants. Iím not exactly sure why Houston elected to shadow Torrey Smith with Johnathan Joseph last week, but it contributed to Boldinís solid fantasy day. In a game where Baltimore will want to chew on the clock, I expect more short- and intermediate-range throws against the zone coverage I expect the Pats will play most of the game. Additionally, Boldin looks more explosive now than he has since early in the season, which makes me believe if any Ravensí WR is going to have a big day, it will be him. As for Nicks, he is in the middle of a Larry Fitzgerald circa 2009 postseason run with two scores in each of the Giantsí first two playoff games. Additionally, the Niners usually move Pro Bowl CB Carlos Rogers into the slot in three-wide sets, which could mean Cruz will have a slow day.

TE: Rob Gronkowski (x1). By now, Iíve made it clear I expect the Ravens to face the Giants in the Super Bowl. With that said, I am not obligated to use a player from one of those teams in each spot, particularly because it would qualify as a fairly big upset if Baltimore actually went up to Foxboro and defeats the Patriots. The selection of Gronkowski here serves two purposes: 1) I feel he is the best play of the week at TE and the possibility of getting 2x from Ballard, Dickson and Pitta doesnít exactly thrill me and 2) in the event the Pats and Giants win, I will still be carrying over five players to the Super Bowl. Vernon Davis warrants a mention here, but there is so little chance the Giants melt down on defense Ė like the Saints did Ė that a repeat of last week (or anything close to it) is highly unlikely.

K: Lawrence Tynes (x1). Letís face it; I don’t like Tynes much as a fantasy kicker and you probably don’t either. He’s missed a kick (or had one blocked) in three straight and four of his last five games, but I’ll take my chances with the kicker on the team playing the best football right now against a defense that will force him to kick some field goals this week. Additionally, if the Giants meet the Ravens as I expect, he’ll likely be in for another 3-4 field-goal game. Also consider that he plays for the team with the second –best offense remaining in the playoffs and there should be a healthy mix of 3-pointers and extra points. Last but not least, as the team most likely to advance of the four remaining – at least in my mind – he represents the safest possible 2x selection I can make.

DST: New York Giants (x1). Again, I’d prefer to have as many multipliers working for me during Super Bowl week as possible. As impressive as New England’s effort against Denver was last week, I’m hardly convinced the Patriots turned a corner on defense. Although I expect Baltimore – my selection last week – to win this week, I’m less enthusiastic about using them this week than I was last week given the fact that both the Giants and Niners probably have a better matchup and could score a few fantasy points for me if they face the Pats. The Niners are tough to go against at home, but Manning-Nicks-Cruz-Mario Manningham still scares me a bit more than Smith-Crabtree-Ted Ginn-Davis. Thus, I am left with the Giants, who have enough run-stopping ability to keep Gore in check and more than enough pass rush to register a few sacks and force a turnover or two.

Fearless predictions for my selected team:
Manning: 300 passing yards, two passing TDs, one INT (18 points)
Rice: 125 rushing yards, two rushing TD, 45 receiving yards (28x3 = 84 points)
Bradshaw: 55 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards (9 points)
Boldin: 110 receiving yards, one receiving TD (17 points)
Nicks: 105 receiving yards, one receiving TD (16 points)
Gronkowski: 70 receiving yards, one receiving TD (13 points)
Tynes: two extra points, three field goals (11 points)
Giants DST: 16 PA, four sacks, one turnover and a team win (12 points)

Projected Total: 170 fantasy points

Week 1 Total: 80
Week 2 Total: 243

Fuzzy’s

Many of the scoring parameters used above apply here as well. The key differences are as follows: no bonus point modifiers (including team-win points). More fantasy points are awarded to kickers who kick long field goals, PPR scoring is used and all TDs are worth six points. In short, your goal is to pick the highest-scoring lineup each week with no strings attached. Additionally, each owner is asked to select a tiebreaker each week which will be used to break any ties following the Super Bowl. Fuzzy's leagues contain no more than 50 teams whereas most other major sites employ a one-man-against-the-world approach. As a result, 20% of the entrants into Fuzzy's playoff leagues will - at the very least - recoup their entry fee, with first through ninth place receiving a nice return on investment for their troubles. Follow this link for a complete list of the rules.

Position Requirements: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 Defense/Special Teams

Since I will be playing with several teams with Fuzzy’s this season, I’ll simply list my teams below and present a brief overview on my overall thought process. Depending on how strongly I feel about matchups in a given week, I may use the same lineup in more than one league, but in general, I believe in “diversifying my portfolio” in the postseason as well.

 Fuzzy Portfolio - Divisional Round
  Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
QB Rodgers Rodgers Rodgers Rodgers
RB Foster Foster Foster Foster
RB Rice Rice Rice Rice
WR Colston Colston Nelson Jennings
WR Nelson Nelson Nicks Nicks
WR Nicks Nicks Thomas Thomas
TE Hernandez Graham Hernandez Hernandez
K Kasay Kasay Akers Kasay
DST Ravens Ravens Ravens Ravens
Tie Brady Brady Brady Brady
WW Pt Tot 152.8 147.8 152.3 152.8
DR Pt Tot 159.3 178.9 165.9 161.0

One note before we get to the picks for this week. Two decisions – neither of which can I say I regret – have cost me big-time this postseason. Based primarily on the respect I used to have for former Saints DC Gregg Williams’ defenses and the relative consistency Denver’s defense showed over the second half of the season, it never occurred to me that Williams and Broncos DC Dennis Allen would completely scrap the approaches they used to limit Calvin Johnson and Rob Gronkowski in their first meetings early this season against the Lions and Patriots, respectively. The decision to trust the two coordinators and the results of the earlier meetings has cost me roughly 80 points in two weeks, which is the difference between where I expect to be in at least 1-2 of these leagues (top 10-20) and my current rankings (bottom half). I don’t know whether I should apologize or not because, quite frankly, I know my reasoning was sound. Nevertheless, I think these results – along with several others this season – will cause me to re-evaluate how I project WRs and TEs going forward in my PSAs. In short, based on these results and how wide open the league was this season, I will place less emphasis on the defense when it comes to the members of the passing game and more on what I believe their role is or what I project it will be.

Last year, the above point totals would have easily placed me in the top 15-20 in every league after the first week. Unfortunately for me, just about every owner in each league has benefited from Johnson and Gronkowski while I have not, which accounts for the majority of the gap between my teams and first place in just about every league. In playoff leagues such as this one, missing out on 1-2 top performers over the course of the playoffs can be the difference between first place and 40th place.

 Fuzzy Portfolio - Conference Championships
  Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
QB Manning Brady Brady Brady
RB Rice Rice Rice Rice
RB Bradshaw Bradshaw Bradshaw Bradshaw
WR Boldin Nicks Boldin Boldin
WR Nicks Smith Nicks Nicks
WR Welker Welker Welker Welker
TE Gronkowski Gronkowski Gronkowski Gronkowski
K Akers Akers Akers Akers
DST Giants Giants Giants Giants
Tie Brady Manning Manning Manning

If you are willing to believe in Flacco or Smith to score the most points, good for you. I’d rather go with Manning battling the flu or Brady dealing with a left shoulder injury (maladies which are incidentally limiting both QBs in practice this week). In order for the first two to score the most fantasy points this week, it would require them to be in catch-up mode because I can almost guarantee you that neither Ravens OC Cam Cameron or Niners OC Greg Roman is game-planning for their QBs to go toe-to-toe with Brady and Manning, respectively, this week. I have a sneaky feeling Manning is the best play because if New York is going to be successful, it will be through the air. The same goes for Brady, but I feel the Ravens have a few more weapons on the back end of their defense to somewhat limit New England’s passing attack. In the end, however, Brady has more weapons, so I will heed my own advice from above and focus more on the skills and roles of the quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends this week as opposed to the quality of the defense.

In my mind, it’s a three-horse race at RB between Rice, Bradshaw and Gore in these leagues, due in large part to PPR scoring. Gore simply isn’t active enough in the passing game this season to make me come off of Bradshaw despite the awful matchup against a stout San Francisco run defense. The selection of Rice is a no-brainer against a defense that finished in the middle of the pack vs. opposing fantasy RBs this season. Making Rice an even better selection is the fact that he rarely ever follows one bad fantasy performance with another. While the Patriots appear to be healthier on defense than they have been all year, I have my doubts about their ability to beat Rice to the edge on each one of the zone runs Baltimore will attempt this week.

Six selections make sense to me at receiver this week – Welker, Boldin, Smith, Crabtree, Nicks and Cruz. Because this is PPR scoring and Baltimore isn’t going to commit to stopping Welker as much as Gronkowski, he seems like a solid selection. Boldin’s involvement is going to be vital this weekend as the Ravens attempt to limit the number of possessions in this game, meaning the short and intermediate passing game will play a huge role in this game. I feel good enough about Smith’s ability to break a big play this weekend against the wretched New England secondary that I will include him in one of my leagues. On the other hand, I’m not feeling anything more than a five-catch, 60-yard game for Crabtree, so I will not be using him. Nicks may see his share of Carlos Rogers in coverage, but I expect the Niners’ Pro Bowl CB to see more of Cruz than Nicks. It helps that Nicks looks healthy for the first time since early this season, which makes him the clear choice to be my second WR that will be in each of my lineups with Fuzzy’s.

At TE, there are three solid choices, but only two great ones. The solid but not great option is Hernandez, who I would probably consider a great choice if not for his head (concussion?) injury. This leaves with Davis and Gronkowski – the last two record holders for TDs by a tight end. While Davis has fewer options to contend with on his offense and the easier matchup (based on fantasy points allowed to opposing TEs), it’s really difficult to go against Gronkowski when he is essentially the goal-line back at tight end and has the better quarterback. Given his ability to contribute at any point of the game anywhere on the field, Gronkowski is the one clear advantage the Patriots’ offense has against the Ravens’ defense since neither Ed Reed nor any of the LBs can exactly match his size. Even though he figures to be the one player Baltimore will double regularly, he will produce.

Last week provided me yet another reminder that San Francisco plays the game it wants to whenever it wants – especially at home. Since I expect that the Niners will stick to their guns and try not to match the Giants’ offensive firepower, they will trust their defense and rely on Akers as often as possible. This leads right into my defensive selection since I do expect a fairly low-scoring defensive battle in that game. Because I believe the Giants have the better pass rush and will ultimately win the game, my decision to choose them over the Niners is an easy one. As for the other options, I expect Pats-Ravens to be the higher-scoring game of the two with fewer sacks and turnovers.

Suggestions, comments, musings about the article or fantasy football in general? E-mail me.


Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006, appeared in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in each of the last two seasons and served as a weekly fantasy football analyst for 106.7 The Fan in Washington, D.C. this past season. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. You can also follow him on Twitter.