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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Conference Championships
Road to the Super Bowl

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 yet another profitable fantasy season, I'm looking to make a great season even better. In addition to owning one 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.

For a complete rundown of how players will score fantasy points for your team, click on the “Official Rules” link on the entry page. 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 Aaron Rodgers in the Wild Card round and the Packers win, you can carry him over to the Divisional Round, and earn two times (2x) the points he earns in his divisional round game. If Green Bay wins again, you can carry Rodgers into the Conference Championship round for 3x the points and, if the Packers 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 Divisional Round. 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 Divisional round, 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 continues to advance in the NFL Playoffs. 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 0-49 yards: 3 fantasy points
Field Goal 50+ yards: 5 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
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 worth four points, so passing yards are valued more highly here than in the Fuzzy’s leagues I’ll discuss later; 2) all field goals under 50 yards are worth three points, which means we are more concerned about volume of field goals than distance – unless we can find a kicker who regularly converts from 50+; 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.

Although my first round of picking winners did not go well, the four teams I (and probably most of us) expected to survive until this weekend are still playing. As a result, most of my team will be carrying 3x qualifiers into this weekend. I will not be changing a pick as a result and, as such, my explanations will be short.


Russell Wilson/Colin Kaepernick/Peyton Manning/Tom Brady

As far as fantasy owners are concerned, Wilson hasn’t really put together a decent statistical performance since lighting up New Orleans back in Week 13. Wilson is already a tough sell because Seattle typically doesn’t give him more than 25-30 opportunities to throw the ball. It is doubtful the Seahawks will alter their run-heavy ways much against San Francisco despite the fact the Niners are probably weaker in their back four than their front seven. In four career games against San Francisco, Wilson hasn’t attempted more than 25 passes in any contest. Kaepernick could be a fantasy goldmine in the Super Bowl if the Niners get there and owners should stick with him if he was their choice from the beginning, but his track record against Seattle is worse than Wilson’s against San Francisco. The Seahawks are one of the few teams that can rush four against Kaepernick, generate a decent pass rush and have enough speed on the back end to keep him contained as a runner.

By now, most of us know Manning is patient enough to audible to a run play when the defense dictates that he should while Patriots HC Bill Belichick and his defensive coordinators over the years have made their name eliminating the opponent’s top offensive weapon. It happened in the teams’ first meeting back in Week 12 and it is one of the few parts of that game I expect to be relevant in this contest. Brady has already publicly admitted New England is a running team this season and it’s not hard to understand why when the outside receivers can’t stay healthy and the primary inside threat (Rob Gronkowski) was lost for the season several weeks ago.

The call: Peyton Manning (x3).Manning posted his lowest fantasy totals of the season in the Week 12 showdown in the frigid cold of Foxboro. While a repeat performance could be in the works, a typical Manning 2013 game is also possible in what should be a high-scoring game. At 3x with the league’s best quarterback, there simply no reason for me to change now.

Running Backs

Marshawn Lynch/Frank Gore/Knowshon Moreno/Montee Ball/Stevan Ridley/Shane Vereen/LeGarrette Blount

Lynch doesn’t contribute much as a receiver (thanks mostly to Seattle’s unwillingness to use him in that regard), but remains one of the few backs capable of having his way against any run defense. Over the last four meetings versus San Francisco, he has topped 98 yards rushing three times and scored six total touchdowns. Gore saved his fantasy day last week with a 39-yard run near the end of the game, but has rushed for a total of 44 yards in his last two visits to Seattle.

Ball saw much more work than I expected him to get and benefited from better blocking last week, but it was still Moreno doing the majority of fantasy damage. I could easily envision a scenario in which the Broncos attempt another 40 runs (they amassed 48 in the previous meeting), although I suspect the rookie will get more than seven carries regardless. Either way, Ball’s time is likely the 2014 season and not now. Blount enjoyed a day for the ages against the Colts and could have success again versus a Broncos’ front that hasn’t been the same against the run since it lost DE Derek Wolfe for the season. For that to happen, however, New England has to play with the lead – and there within lies the rub with using him this week and possibly in the Super Bowl. Both games could just as easily be huge fantasy performances by Vereen if the Patriots are in catch-up mode at any point.

The call: Knowshon Moreno (x3) and Marshawn Lynch (x2). Although his efficiency wasn’t great against the Chargers, Moreno found the end zone and gave his owners nearly 100 total yards – a performance I can live with just about any week. I have no regrets selecting Lynch over Gore for two reasons: 1) he was more productive last week and should be again this week and 2) if Seattle and Denver make the Super Bowl, I only have to change out a defense.

Wide Receivers

Percy Harvin/Golden Tate/Doug Baldwin/Michael Crabtree/Anquan Boldin/Demaryius Thomas/Eric Decker/Wes Welker/Julian Edelman/Danny Amendola/Aaron Dobson/Kenbrell Thompkins

Given the fact that Seattle hasn’t passed for more than 222 yards or a touchdown in any of the last five games, it makes it nearly impossible to buy into one of its receivers in this format. The Seahawks have given up an average of 176.1 passing yards at home this season – a number boosted significantly by Drew Brees’ 301-yard effort last week – so I’m going to be pretty quick to dismiss any of San Francisco’s receiving options as well.

Thomas figures to see a lot of Aqib Talib in coverage this week – a matchup Talib won for the most part in the first meeting – so this should be a better week for Welker and Decker. Edelman lit up Denver for a 9-110-2 line in the first meeting – sparking his fantastic finish to the season – and has a chance to repeat his success since usual slot CB Chris Harris was lost for the season last week and Champ Bailey – who manned the slot in his return to the field against San Diego – probably cannot be counted on for much more than the 29 snaps he saw last week. Knowing the Patriots, however, it would come as little surprise if this is one of Amendola’s best games given all the injuries the Broncos have sustained. Dobson (foot) didn’t play last week and Thompkins (concussion) hasn’t really been on the fantasy radar since the first of December.

The call: Demaryius Thomas (x3) and Eric Decker (x3). Thomas and Decker at 3x are locks, but had I known for sure Welker was going to play for sure before the playoffs started, I would have been very tempted to use him over Decker. Either way, with Thomas likely to get his fill of Talib this week, I suspect it will be time for Decker and Welker to shine.

Tight Ends

Zach Miller/Vernon Davis/Julius Thomas/Jacob Tamme/Michael Hoomanawanui

Miller was a fringe option before the start of the playoffs and it doesn’t help matters he is going up against San Francisco. The ex-Raider has posted no more than two catches or 22 yards in any of his games against the Niners since joining the Seahawks three seasons ago. Davis is on an impressive touchdown stretch (one score in three straight games and eight of his last nine), but has caught only three of his 11 targets in the playoffs. If I didn’t know any better, I’d suggest he has emerged as Colin Kaepernick’s favorite red-zone option, but is an afterthought everywhere else when one considers how much attention he receives from opposing defenses.

Thomas got off to a slow and somewhat disappointing start last week and still ended up with six receptions for 76 yards, including a couple of clutch catches late. He did not play in the first matchup against the Patriots and should be one of the reasons why Denver will win this time around. Tamme’s 5-47-1 line against New England should be Thomas’ floor. Hoomanawanui probably wouldn’t be much of a consideration even if Seattle and New England end up in the Super Bowl.

The call: Julius Thomas (x2). It wouldn’t surprise me if Thomas is the most productive tight end this week by a large margin, so the fact he is already locked in with the 2x multiplier makes him all the more attractive option as a fantasy pick.


Steven Hauschka/Phil Dawson/Matt Prater/Stephen Gostkowski

The selections at kicker and defense really need to be made prior to the start of the playoffs. Since I still believe Denver and San Francisco will meet in New York in a couple of weeks, my realistic options really haven’t changed. If the Niners get through, I’ll instantly regret not sticking with Dawson from the start. However, Denver has seemingly been the best bet to get through its conference all along, so settling for Prater doesn’t seem so bad.

The call: Matt Prater (x3).

Defense/Special Teams


From the start, the NFC contained all of the best D/ST options available in this competition. With New England and Denver so devastated by injuries, each AFC team could actually serve as a source of fantasy points for whichever NFC D/ST comes out of Seattle with the win this Sunday. The Seahawks are hard to predict against at home in just about any year, but have been less than impressive in two of their last three games at CenturyLink Field. Meanwhile, the Niners are on a roll and have built up a great deal of confidence on the road lately. A fully healthy San Francisco team is probably the most talented team left in the field, so I have no issues standing firm here.

The call: Niners (x3).

Fearless predictions for my selected team:
Manning: 275 passing yards, three passing TDs (23 x 3 = 69 fantasy points)
Moreno: 125 rushing yards, one rushing TD, 20 receiving yards (20 x 3 = 60 points)
Lynch: 85 rushing yards, one rushing TD, 10 receiving yards (15 x 2 = 30 points)
D. Thomas: 55 receiving yards (5 x 3 = 15 points)
Decker: 75 receiving yards, one receiving TD (15 x 3 = 45 points)
J. Thomas: 70 receiving yards, one receiving TD (13 x 2 = 26 points)
Prater: four extra points, two field goals (10 x 3 = 30 points)
Niners DST: 13 PA, four sacks, one turnover and a team win (15 x 3 = 45 points)

Projected Total:320 fantasy points


Many of the scoring parameters used above apply here as well, with the key differences being that Fuzzy’s uses PPR scoring and there are no bonus-point modifiers or team-win points. Kickers get four points for field goals between 40-49 yards and six points for 60+ conversions while all TDs are worth six points. Your goal is to pick the highest-scoring lineup each week with no strings attached. Additionally, each owner is asked to select a tiebreaker every week which will be used to break any ties following the Super Bowl. Fuzzy's leagues contain no more than 50 teams in a league 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.

 Fuzzy Portfolio - Divisional Round
  Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
QB Manning Manning Manning Manning
RB Lynch Lynch Lynch Lynch
RB Moreno Moreno Moreno Moreno
WR Crabtree Crabtree Crabtree Edelman
WR Edelman Hilton Edelman Hilton
WR D. Thomas D. Thomas D. Thomas D. Thomas
TE J. Thomas J. Thomas J. Thomas J. Thomas
K Gostkowski Gostkowski Gostkowski Gostkowski
DST Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks Seahawks
Tie Rivers Rivers Rivers Rivers
WC Pt. Total 72.6 67.5 76.8 78.4
DR Pt. Total 123.9 123.8 123.9 132.6

As you can see, I enjoyed a pretty strong rebound week. Of course, no week is every perfect and I could be heard uttering the phrase, “Why didn’t you do that last week?” to Keenan Allen and Marques Colston during the divisional round. Julius Thomas over Jimmy Graham was a good call, but I could have enjoyed even more production had I decided to opt for Phil Dawson and the Niners defense.

 Fuzzy Portfolio - Conference Championships
  Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
QB Brady Brady Manning Brady
RB Lynch Lynch Lynch Lynch
RB Moreno Moreno Moreno Moreno
WR Decker Decker Decker Edelman
WR Edelman Edelman Edelman D. Thomas
WR Welker Welker Welker Welker
TE J. Thomas J. Thomas J. Thomas J. Thomas
K Dawson Dawson Hauschka Dawson
DST Niners Seahawks Niners Niners
Tie Manning Manning Brady Manning

The only question I have at quarterback is whether Manning or Brady will be the one playing from behind, because both quarterbacks could put up huge numbers this weekend. In a perhaps desperate attempt to gain some ground on the competition while I still can, I will likely opt to use Brady this week in hopes that catch-up mode will allow him to outscore Manning by 5-10 points. The odds either Kaepernick or Wilson will outperform their AFC brethren are very long.

Blount may have worked his way onto one of my teams with last week’s effort, but can fantasy owners really throw their faith behind a player who saw all of 27 snaps in a game the Patriots controlled throughout? If New England falls behind by a couple scores at any point, Blount could be rendered a non-factor and we could see a ton of Vereen and Bolden instead. That kind of situational usage may be acceptable to me in a couple of weeks, but not when we still have two clear-cut feature-back options left in Moreno and Lynch. If Gore somehow works his way into being a top-two option at running back this week, it likely means the Niners won going away. I’m not betting on either scenario taking place.

Given for aforementioned expectations that Seattle-San Francisco is likely to net little more than one receiving touchdown between the two teams (which I will predict will go to Doug Baldwin), I will quickly switch my focus to the remaining AFC combatants. Demaryius Thomas is always a good bet to produce, but probably will not be a four-team lock for me like he was last week with Talib following him around. One player that will be on every one of teams this week will be Edelman. Perhaps Edelman is an easy pick because he was a 100-reception receiver in the regular season or perhaps because he tore up Denver the last time the teams played each other. However, my reasoning goes deeper than that: Edelman has emerged as Brady’s most trusted receiver AND standout slot CB Chris Harris is out for the season. Three of Decker’s “duds” this season came against the Chargers and another one came against the Patriots, but there’s a very good chance he or Welker will be the big winners at receiver this week.

The choice at tight end really boils down to Davis and Thomas. As a rule, I try not to rely on any player – no matter how good or talented they are – against the Seattle defense, so the easy call for all of my teams this week is Thomas.

I don’t see a bad option at kicker this week. Prater and Gostkowski seem most likely to kick more extra points than field goals while Hauschka and/or Dawson could each easily post 3-4 field goals. As such, I will be going NFC-heavy on my kicker selections this week.

It is unlikely the Seahawks and 49ers will combine for 40 points this week and both teams feature better pass rushes than either one of their AFC counterparts. Although it is possible Denver or New England could get a return touchdown to boost their fantasy numbers, I believe it is more likely we’ll get a defensive/special teams score in the NFC Championship. As a result, all four of my defensive selections this week will be either Seattle or San Francisco.

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

Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and appeared in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in 2010 and 2011. He is also the host of USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday. Doug regularly appears as a fantasy football analyst on Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive” and for 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C). He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.