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Inside The Matchup: Conference Championships

One of the best tools that FF Today provides is the fantasy football points vs. feature and, more specifically, the remaining Strength of Schedule. Using this feature, it is my hope to augment these features and refine them even further. Over time, it should be proven in this column that different styles of players score differently against different opponents. For example, perhaps a possession receiver makes for a better play against a certain defense as opposed to a burner despite the fact that the defensive back guarding him is considered slow. Given the high number of committee running backs and teams without a clear-cut #1 receiver in the NFL, I feel this analysis will help owners with roster decisions the rest of this season.

QBs: (1 pt per 25 yds passing; 6 pts for all TDs, -2 pts/INT)
RBs: (1 pt per 10 yards rushing/receiving; 6 pts for all TDs)
WRs/TEs: (1 point per 10 yards rushing/receiving, 6 points per TD)


Patriots @ Colts

Tom Brady/Reche Caldwell/Jabar Gaffney/Ben Watson
Corey Dillon/Laurence Maroney (vs. IND)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Colts this season: Patriots
Similar RBs that have faced the Colts this season: Dillon/Maroney
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 11.4
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 11.2
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 5.4
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 29
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs in the playoffs: 2.8/5.1/7.9
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs in the playoffs: 9.6

Passing Game Facts: Brady’s three INTs were his first picks after going five straight games without throwing one. Brady has thrown 5 INTs compared to 2 TDs over his last two road playoff games. Five different WRs took turns this season as the Pats’ best fantasy WR. Gaffney is the playoff’s leading receiver, in yards and receptions. The Pats have four 100-yard receiving performances from their WRs this year-including Gaffney’s back-to-back 100-yard outings during the last two playoff games. The Patriots were one of only four teams to have their TEs surpass 1000 yards receiving during the regular season. After allowing 247 yards in the season opener, the Colts defense has not allowed more than 226 yards passing in any game since. The Colts have not allowed an opposing WR to top 10 fantasy points since Javon Walker in Week 8.

Running Game Facts: Last week ended Dillon’s three-game scoring streak. Last week also marked Dillon’s fourth (and Maroney’s fifth) game this season where they logged fewer that 10 carries in a game. Dillon had scored at least 8 fantasy points in six straight before last week, but has still hit that mark in nine of his last 11 games. The Colts have allowed 10 individual 100-yard rushers in 2006. Surprisingly, they have allowed only 110 rushing yards to the RB position in the playoffs so far (2 games).

Analysis: I look for Brady’s numbers to come early in this game as they try to loosen up what has become a very aggressive, over-pursuing run defense in the playoffs. Brady should have a much better (although I don’t expect a dominant) performance than he did in the teams’ first meeting, somewhere in the 240 yard, 2 TD, 2 INT range. I expect Dillon will have his average game this weekend, expect him to run for at least 55 yards and a score. I expect Maroney to have a similar yardage game without the score. We can’t use prior history to determine what Gaffney and Caldwell will do against the Colts, because neither WR played much-if at all-against the Colts while wearing a Pats uniform. Thus, we can only go from what we have seen in the playoffs, meaning we should see a lot of short passes thrown to Gaffney and about 3-5 long balls to Caldwell. Put Gaffney down for 80+ yards while Caldwell should be in line for 75 yards and a score. Watson or Dan Graham is a pretty good bet for a short yardage score. I like Watson for 50-60 receiving yards as well.

Peyton Manning/Marvin Harrison/Reggie Wayne/Dallas Clark
Joseph Addai/Dominic Rhodes (vs. NE)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Patriots this season: Colts
Similar RBs that have faced the Patriots this season: Addai/Rhodes
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 24
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 35.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 9.1
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 11.6
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs in the playoffs: 9.8/15.5/6.5
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs in the playoffs: 25.7

Passing Game Facts: In 8 of Manning’s 11 playoff starts, he has thrown for 0 or 1 TDs. Manning’s 5 INTs in this year’s playoffs are half as many picks as he has thrown in any one of the last four regular seasons. He has, however, thrown for 268+ yards in five of his last seven games. After an 11-game streak in which at least one Colts WR has scored more than 10 fantasy points in every game, the Colts have not had a WR score ten fantasy points in either one of the two playoff games. Harrison has been held under 50 yards in consecutive games for the first time since Week 5-6 of the 2005 season. Additionally, he has not topped 52 yards receiving in his last six playoff games. On the other hand, Wayne has eclipsed 97 yards twice in his last five postseason games. Wayne has scored three postseason TDs since Harrison scored his last one. Colts TEs have scored six times this season, but none have come in the last eight games. Clark has piled up 84 or more yards receiving in three of his five career postseason games. Peyton Manning is the only QB to score more than 14.1 fantasy points vs. the Pats since Week 9. Only three opposing QBs have accounted for multiple scores in the same game against the Patriots this season. The Pats have allowed two WRs to score 10+ fantasy points in the same game only once this season. The Pats have allowed three TEs to top 50 yards receiving this season and they have not allowed a double-digit performance to the TE position all season-they have not allowed a TE score all season.

Running Game Facts: Only three times since their bye week have the Colts had one rusher carry the ball at least 20 times-all by Addai. Addai has only scored once since Week 12. Since their Week 6 bye, the Patriots defense has kept only two teams from featuring a 10+ fantasy point producer at RB. They have also allowed an individual rusher to eclipse 90 yards rushing in six of their last eight games.

Analysis: I expect a game quite similar to the Week 9 showdown in the regular season, minus the 4 Brady INTs. This is Manning’s best shot yet to not only break the Pats’ two-game playoff hex on him, but also to shatter the glass ceiling that has become synonymous with Manning’s playoff “struggles”. I look for 275 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT from him in this game. Addai should be a good bet to follow in the line of other opposing RBs that have had a good deal of success against the Pats’ run defense, so figure Addai for over 100 total yards with one score fairly likely. Rhodes should step up for his usual 50-yard contribution. I look for Harrison to end his 7-game scoreless streak in the playoffs this week. He has absolutely owned the Pats in the last two meetings in which he taken turns burning CBs Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs. I’ll predict 85 yards and a score for Harrison and 80 yards and a score for Wayne. Clark should also settle in with about 60 yards as Manning has not been shy about throwing to him late in the season.

Saints @ Bears

Drew Brees/Joe Horn/Marques Colston/Billy Miller
Deuce McAllister/Reggie Bush (vs. CHI)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Bears this season: Patriots
Similar RBs that have faced the Bears this season: Tiki Barber/Brandon Jacobs
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 18.7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 17.4
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 28.6
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs in the playoffs: 12.6/20.5/3.8
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs in the playoffs: 25.1

Passing Game Facts: Brees’ 16 points last week was his best fantasy performance in four weeks. Brees has thrown only one INT over his last seven games. Brees has thrown for fewer than 208 yards in four of his last six games. A Saints WR has not scored 10 fantasy points in a game in five of the last six games. Saints WRs have scored only once over the last four games. Saints WRs have scored 21 TDs this year; however, they have only scored three over the last six weeks. No Saints TE has scored more than 7.4 fantasy points this season. Last week was the first time in five games Chicago did not allow at least one WR to score 11.8 fantasy points and it was also the first time in three games they did not allow an opposing WR to exceed 100 yards. The Bears allowed 3 TE scores this year, two of which have been scored in the last four games.

Running Game Facts: After not putting together two 100-total yard performances in the same game through 11 games, Bush and McAllister have turned the trick in three of the last six. Fifteen of the Saints 24 RB scores this season have come in the last six games. Since their bye week, the Bears have allowed eight of their eleven opponents’ RBs to score 11+ fantasy points after allowing only one double-digit performance to an opposing RB prior to Week 7.

Analysis: As mentioned before in this column, the Saints have become much more of a running team in recent weeks. Therefore, don’t expect much from Brees as he has not topped 16 fantasy points in any of his last four games. Pencil him in for 220 yards and a score, likely to Colston or Bush. McAllister may be the best fantasy play of the week. I like him for 105 yards and at least one, if not two, scores. Bush is a solid candidate for 80 total yards. Colston figures to have another solid, but unspectacular, week with 60 yards. He’s the best candidate of the Saints WRs to score. Horn may or may not play, meaning he should continue to not be in your lineup. Henderson could merit some play, but there are enough good WRs that you should have to play him this week; he doesn’t figure to put up any more than 55 yards. Terrance Copper and Jamal Jones are not worth your time either. Miller saw a lot of action last week, but don’t expect a repeat. Don’t figure on any more than 40 yards.

Rex Grossman/Bernard Berrian/Muhsin Muhammad/Desmond Clark
Thomas Jones/Cedric Benson (vs. NO)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Saints this season: 49ers
Similar RBs that have faced the Saints this season: Julius Jones/Marion Barber
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 12.6
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 18.2
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 2.1
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 18.5
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs in the playoffs: 16.5/26.1/2.8
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs in the playoffs: 24.7

Passing Game Facts: Grossman’s 282 passing yards vs. Seattle was his third-highest passing yardage performance this season. On the down side, he’s had five games of 3 or more INTs this season. Either Berrian or Muhammad has been the team’s leading fantasy WR in 15 of the team’s 17 games this season. Since Week 7, at least one Bears WR has scored 8.5 fantasy points in a game in all but one contest. Following Clark’s 2 TD, 125-yard performance in Week 15, he has totaled 49 yards and no scores in three games since. New Orleans has allowed at least 11.2 fantasy points to the QB position in all but two games this season. Every opposing QB except Michael Vick has thrown for at least one score vs. the Saints. New Orleans has allowed an opposing WR to score 9.7+ fantasy points in nine of their last ten games. They have allowed at least one WR score in six straight games. New Orleans has not allowed a TE score in eight straight games.

Running Game Facts: Benson has seen 10 or more carries in seven of his last eight games. Over the last six games, Jones has touched the ball 92 times while Benson has touched it 86 times. Twelve of the 16 TDs that Bears have scored this season have been scored in six games. Four of the last five teams to face the Saints have featured a RB that scored at least 15 points.

Analysis: Grossman is riding a four-game streak of pretty decent fantasy performances in games he has “fully prepared” for and is playing some of the most consistent football he has all season. He still hasn’t earned enough trust in my mind to start in my playoff lineup this year though. I do expect 230 yards, 1 TD, and at least one INT from him this week. Jones is a slightly better play than Benson this weekend, but I like the chances of both RBs to score in this game. I’ll put Jones for 90 total yards and Benson for 50. Saints CB Fred Thomas has been beaten like a drum deep this season, so I expect Berrian to grab a long score if he gets matched up with Thomas on more than a handful of occasions. Berrian should be a good bet for 90+ yards and a score. Muhammad isn’t likely to be anything special this week; he’ll likely top out at 50 yards. I’m also not incredibly thrilled with Clark’s prospects either, he should not put up anything more than 40 yards.