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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Divisional Playoffs
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.

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 potentially great defense such as the Seahawks or Panthers in the Divisional Round. (I’m not saying I would do that, but it is a strategy to consider.)

I’ll say this once and only once so I don’t have to repeat myself. This week, it is advantageous to do choose players who (in order): 1) we think will play four games and/or 2) will likely be in the Super Bowl, even if they don’t have the best matchups this week or on a bye. One other nugget: at RB and WR, I won’t evaluate every option for obvious reasons. I’ll simply reveal my final few choices and take it from there.

On one hand, my game-by-game predictions made for a rough week. On the other hand, “investing for the future” means that I only have to make one change to my lineup this week (even though I decided to make two moves). As a result, I won’t be going into a great amount of detail with every pick, but I will discuss players that I would select now given how this past weekend unfolded. Now let’s get to my picks and my rationale for each position:


Russell Wilson/Cam Newton/Colin Kaepernick/Drew Brees/ Peyton Manning/Tom Brady/Andrew Luck/Philip Rivers

Given what we know this week, I’d be hard-pressed to go against Wilson if I hadn’t already locked in Manning. Although it is nearly impossible to forget how dominant Seattle was against New Orleans the last time the two teams met, my statement about Wilson has as much to do about: 1) the questionable status of Saints CB Keenan Lewis, 2) the likelihood the Seahawks will be able to win two games at home and 3) the odds they will play against one of the four remaining AFC teams – none of which possess a menacing defense. Newton evolved more into a caretaker as the Panthers began to rely on their defense, which is unlikely to change now. Making matters worse, Newton is likely to face two teams that surrendered a total of 17 points to Carolina in their regular-season meetings over the next two games (49ers and Seahawks) – assuming the Panthers get through this weekend. Kaepernick is a much different animal when Michael Crabtree is available to him, but he’s going into this weekend with the same kind of matchup issues Newton has over the next two weeks in all likelihood (Carolina and San Francisco). Brees didn’t exactly light up the Eagles’ questionable defense last weekend, so I’m not expecting big things from him in his return visit to Seattle. The Saints face long odds in making it past this weekend.

We’ll get to Manning below, so I’ll move on to Brady, who should be licking his chops a bit after watching Alex Smith throw for four scores against the Colts. Luck is the primary reason the Colts are halfway competitive each week, so Indianapolis’ stubborn notion that it has a physical ground game when it lacks the personnel necessary to see it through continues to be the main reason it falls behind so early in games. If the Colts fall behind by 20 again, don’t expect them to rally this week. Indianapolis’ best chance of winning this week is to ditch the running game (until next season) and let Luck play “playground football”. The biggest shocker of the weekend wasn’t San Diego defeating Cincinnati, but how the Chargers did it. With the ground game working so well (which is likely to continue against Denver), don’t expect Rivers’ recent string of average fantasy performances to stop now. (Rivers has thrown for 229 yards or fewer in four straight games and only accounted for more than two scores once in that span.)

The call: Peyton Manning (x2). No regrets here. Manning’s last “average” effort came at home against San Diego in Week 15 – on a short week without Wes Welker, no less – so the odds are probably pretty good he’ll finish among the top three scorers at his position this week. However, the major consideration for this contest is what he can do down the road…and Manning has that working in his favor as well.

Running Backs

Marshawn Lynch

Lynch will be a top pick in playoff leagues this week.

Marshawn Lynch/DeAngelo Williams/Frank Gore/Pierre Thomas/Darren Sproles/Knowshon Moreno/Montee Ball/Stevan Ridley/Shane Vereen/LeGarrette Blount/Trent Richardson/Donald Brown/Ryan Mathews/Danny Woodhead

Let’s quickly eliminate Williams, Thomas, Sproles, Ridley and Richardson from further consideration for what should be obvious reasons at this point. Lynch could (and probably should) have his way with New Orleans in Seattle, but sometimes what appears to be a soft matchup for “Beast Mode” ends up being a great game for Russell Wilson when defenses respect Lynch too much in the red zone. Gore had an acceptable fantasy performance against the Packers, but there’s a very good chance he may not score for the two games and it isn’t as if he contributes enough in the passing game anymore that he can overcome a lack of touchdowns. Given the weakened state of defenses in the AFC and my selection of Moreno last week, his selection should be a no-brainer. Because I expect Moreno to return to a workload similar to the one he enjoyed during the first half of the season, I doubt that Ball will be worthy of a selection at any point before the Super Bowl – if even then.

The Patriots’ backfield has long a productive mess for fantasy owners and about the only thing that has changed this season is that Blount is assuming some, if not most, of Ridley’s former workload. Vereen is not a strong consideration since this league uses standard scoring and also because I can’t see a bruised-and-battered New England defense getting by Denver (or maybe even San Diego, for that matter) on the road next week. Brown is a decent choice in the pick-the-studs competition with Fuzzy’s below, but the Colts are really little more than a one-man show who figure to get exposed in one of the next two weeks. Mathews is another fair selection for a week-to-week playoff competition – assuming his ankle is sound – but I still don’t like the Chargers to make it past this week, much less to the Super Bowl.

The call: Knowshon Moreno (x2) and Marshawn Lynch. I discussed my rationale for Moreno last week, so I’m going to spend the rest of my time on Lynch, who is probably a surprising pick considering I predicted the Niners to make the Super Bowl last week. In a sense, I’m hedging my bet and should be able to get three quality games out of a top-10 running back if Seattle makes it to New York as many expect. However, my rationale for this pick is that getting an average of 65 total yards from Gore over the next two weeks isn’t going to match up with what Lynch does this week and beyond. Lynch could easily tear up the Saints this week, essentially matching or exceeding what Gore does this week and next week combined. It’s the reason I chose LeSean McCoy over Gore last week and will continue to be the reason I avoid Gore until the Super Bowl.

Wide Receivers

Percy Harvin/Golden Tate/Doug Baldwin/Steve Smith/Brandon LaFell/Ted Ginn/Michael Crabtree/Anquan Boldin/Marques Colston/Kenny Stills/Demaryius Thomas/Eric Decker/Wes Welker/Julian Edelman/Danny Amendola/Aaron Dobson/Kenbrell Thompkins/TY Hilton/Da’Rick Rogers/LaVon Brazill/Griff Whalen/Keenan Allen/Eddie Royal

Outside of perhaps Crabtree, it is hard to make a strong case for any NFC receiver this week and probably even next week. The Saints have solid options (specifically Colston), but can we really make a strong argument that New Orleans will thrive in Seattle this weekend? Crabtree has seemingly emerged as Kaepernick’s go-to guy yet again and would probably be a strong third receiver in this competition if the rules allowed for that many receivers.

Welker’s return will obviously help Denver, although one has to wonder about the likelihood that he could get sidelined again at some point. As we discussed last week, Edelman and Amendola would be stronger considerations if PPR scoring was being used. Hilton may be the most dynamic receiver left in the playoffs, but can we really expect the Patriots to allow him to singlehandedly destroy their defense? (Then again, I thought it was pretty clear the Chiefs would do everything in their power to shut him down last week.) I still can’t push any Chargers through even though Allen remains the most likely player to find the end zone for San Diego.

The call: Demaryius Thomas (x2) and Eric Decker (x2). I’m pretty much going to stand on my reasoning for last week. Riding Thomas and Decker seems like a logical thing to do given the explosiveness of the Broncos’ passing game and the fact we really don’t have much of a clue which receiver will dominate in a given week, although the chances one of them has a huge game are pretty good.

Tight Ends

Zach Miller/Greg Olsen/Vernon Davis/Jimmy Graham/Julius Thomas/Jacob Tamme/ Michael Hoomanawanui/Coby Fleener/Antonio Gates

Let’s be honest: there are only three options that should be considered from here on out (maybe four if you believe Carolina will make the Super Bowl) – Davis, Graham and Thomas. Davis scored a touchdown once every four receptions in the regular season and added another score last weekend, although it is difficult to like him this week or next with likely matchups against Carolina and Seattle (teams that held him to a total of six catches for 43 yards and one score in three games this season). Graham is always a good choice regardless of the opponent, but are the Saints going to make it past this week? Thomas comes with a fair amount of risk himself since the three remaining teams in the AFC are the three teams that defeated Denver this season.

The call: Julius Thomas. The margin between Davis and Thomas was razor-thin last week, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I had a change of heart after watching Kaepernick not find his mark very often with Davis and more time to consider how well the Panthers and Seahawks have played him already this season. As much as I hate to miss out on a potential 4x spot in a possible good matchup against an AFC opponent, the likely 2x and 3x scores probably won’t be so great. By locking in Thomas now, I should be able to count on 1x and 2x totals than exceed Davis’ 2x and 3x numbers while also increasing my odds that my tight end will make it through to the Super Bowl.


Steven Hauschka/Graham Gano/Phil Dawson/Shayne Graham/Matt Prater/Stephen Gostkowski/Adam Vinatieri/Nick Novak

The selections at kicker and defense really need to be made prior to the start of the playoffs. Hauschka, Gano, Dawson and Prater all make solid choices and there’s really no reason to change whichever kicker you chose last weekend unless his team was eliminated.

The call: Matt Prater (x2). This decision was made last week and it is a no-brainer to stay with Prater this week. Denver’s offense should enable him to be in scoring position at least 4-5 times while the guarantee that he’ll be kicking in thin air means he could be in line for a 50+ yard field goal.

Defense/Special Teams

Seahawks/Panthers/Niners/Saints/ Patriots/Broncos/Colts/Chargers

Perhaps I’m being a bit shortsighted, but I’m giving the Saints virtually no chance to win in Seattle this weekend. As a result, I was tempted to make a switch to the Seahawks because they could be the premier defense/special teams option for the rest of the playoffs. However, I’m not entirely certain San Francisco isn’t going to enjoy similar success against Carolina, so if I feel the Niners will continue through to the Super Bowl, there is really no need to lose the multiplier. The Panthers obviously make for a strong option, but seem to be the second-most unlikely NFC team to make the Super Bowl. A weaker case could be made for the Chargers (since they might be playing the best of all the AFC teams), although very few teams benefit defensively from squaring off against Peyton Manning one week and either Tom Brady or Andrew Luck the next.

The call: Niners (x2). Once again, this call was made last week. The desire to switch over to Seattle is strong given how well the Seahawks played against the Saints the first time around, but it isn’t as if the Niners were outclassed in their first meeting against the Panthers (a 10-9 loss). Carolina is going to have trouble scoring (especially with a less-than-100% Steve Smith) and could really make the 2x pay off over those owners who opted to roll with Seattle last week. Also consider that the 49ers were beat up when they last faced the Panthers, lost Vernon Davis after one catch to a concussion, did not have Michael Crabtree back yet and had just welcomed back Aldon Smith from a long absence.

Fearless predictions for my selected team:
Manning: 335 passing yards, three passing TDs, 5 rushing yards (25 x 2 = 50 fantasy points)
Moreno: 70 rushing yards, one rushing TD, 45 receiving yards (17 x 2 = 34 points)
Lynch: 115 rushing yards, two rushing TDs, 15 receiving yards (24 points)
Thomas: 110 receiving yards, one receiving TD (17 x 2 = 34 points)
Decker: 50 receiving yards (5 x 2 = 10 points)
Thomas: 70 receiving yards, one receiving TD (13 points)
Prater: four extra points, two field goals (10 x 2 = 20 points)
Niners DST: 10 PA, three sacks, two turnovers and a team win (16 x 2 = 32 points)

Projected Total: 217 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 - Wildcard Round
  Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
QB Foles Brees Foles Brees
RB Charles Charles Charles Charles
RB McCoy McCoy McCoy McCoy
WR Allen Allen Jackson Allen
WR Colston Jackson Colston Green
WR Green Green Green Nelson
TE Graham Graham Graham Graham
K Vinatieri Henery Vinatieri Henery
DST Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals
Tie Kaepernick Foles Brees Foles
Pt Total 72.6 67.5 76.8 78.4

I thought I did a fine job of sticking to my guns by not putting too much thought into the matchups this past weekend (outside of making some changes due to the extreme cold in Green Bay). Instead, I endured the worst week I’ve posted in all of my years of playoff fantasy football. About 40% of the owners across my four leagues surprisingly opted not to start Charles, which meant they received an instant boost when fantasy’s top back was lost after five snaps. Allen saw all of three targets since Cincinnati seemingly had no answer for San Diego’s running game, meaning Rivers needed to attempt only 16 passes. Colston caught both of his targets and Graham was thrown at a whopping four times, making it hard to believe New Orleans was competitive – much less won – in Philadelphia. I made a late switch from Nelson to Jackson in some leagues due to the conditions (knowing Keenan Lewis would be a tough player for Jackson to deal with), but was stunned that Foles rarely even looked in Jackson’s direction, even after Lewis was lost for the game early in the second half. I understand how it might sound like sour grapes, but fate very much smiled upon those owners who ignored logic last week. Nelson and Crabtree benefited from the fact that Green Bay wasn’t quite as frigid as many feared it would be entering the weekend, but the owners who came out the best were the ones likely cussing out Luck and the Colts through about 2 ½ quarters. Fantasy isn’t always fair or logical, so life goes on…

 Fuzzy Portfolio - Divisional Round
  Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
QB Luck Luck Manning Luck
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 Manning Manning Luck Manning

Despite my best attempts to not fall behind the pack by 50-80 points after one week, that is exactly the position I find myself in now in just about every league. It goes without saying that I will be taking some risks in hopes to make up some of that gap, although slightly better fortune on my end will probably help me get back into the game somewhat.

The natural inclination for most owners will be to select Manning this weekend, but I’m not entirely certain that is the best call. One could easily argue more weight will be placed on Luck’s shoulders this weekend than any other quarterback while Brady could easily match Alex Smith’s production from a week ago with better personnel in what should be a high-scoring game between two teams with highly questionable defenses. Wilson enjoyed a 35.1-point performance in fantasy against the Saints in their regular-season meeting and is such a dynamic playmaker that New Orleans’ third-ranked defense (in terms of allowing the fewest fantasy points to the quarterback) doesn’t mean much.

Moreno and Lynch seem like obvious plays at running back, although the same was said about Charles and McCoy last week. I will consider given one nod each (of the eight slots I have available at the running back spot) to Mathews and Vereen, but do not plan on making up my deficit at this position or receiver this week.

Kaepernick’s affinity for Crabtree was evident last season and has taken over the Niners’ passing game once again. I’m highly tempted to start him in every league, but I’d just as soon not miss out on another big week from Hilton if at all possible – since the second-year wideout has assumed Reggie Wayne-like target totals over the least two contests. I can’t imagine Edelman is the new Wes Welker for the Patriots, but it isn’t very often we have a chance to set our lineup with a receiver with 100+ catches. Thomas is generally a man amongst boys and unquestionably the most gifted receiver available in this field.

Graham could face an All-Pro defense each week and still be worth considering, but this is one area I’m hoping to make up 5-10 points in this competition. Graham has been absolute stud in PPR leagues this season at the Superdome, one venue he will not play at again until September. Graham’s work on the road – while still elite when compared to others at his position – has been a little less stellar and this is not a time I want to hope Graham is on the receiving end of Brees’ one scoring toss like he was against the Seahawks in Week 13. Thomas isn’t the yardage threat Graham is, but is pretty much on pace with him in touchdowns and seems to be Manning’s favorite red-zone option. San Diego doesn’t possess the linebacker/safety personnel that Seattle does, so when you combine that with how thin the Chargers have to spread themselves defensively to account for all of Denver’s weapons, there is “blowup” potential this week for owners willing to roll with Thomas.

As much as others seem to dismiss kickers, there is something to be said about finding one that has a high floor AND ceiling. Prater didn’t experience many single-digit hiccups throughout the regular season, but he did have a handful – including one against the Chargers. That is hardly a knock on him because the offense is so efficient. Conversely, Gostkowski scored no fewer than seven points (on two occasions) in any game in this format and finished in double digits 10 times. In what could end up being a shootout between the Colts and the Patriots, I’ll take the kicker from a team that can hit from 50+, has consistently proven he can score at least 10 points and the most likely to watch his offense bog down in the red zone more often.

I don’t exactly expect a repeat of the same performance Seattle turned in against New Orleans in the first meeting (seven points allowed, one sack, one turnover and one defensive score), but I would not be surprised in the least if the Seahawks did not match or exceed the 13-point fantasy effort they posted in that contest. San Francisco and Carolina should do a fine job against the other defensively, but neither offense commits all that many turnovers, making each defense a low-upside option.

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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.