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Road To The Super Bowl
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 in your fantasy postseason or just aren't 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 animal, 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.

For the first time in my “fantasy career", I'll be taking part in multiple playoff leagues this year. I will compete in one free league with CBS Sportsline and two 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.



Offensive Statistics
All TDs = 6 points
Passing Yards - 1 point for every 25 yards
Rushing/Receiving Yards - 1 point for every 10 yards
Two-point conversion = 2 points
Interception - 2 points
Fumble Lost - 2 points
Field Goals 0-49 yards = 3 points; 50+ yards = 5 points
Extra Point = 1 point

Defensive/Special Teams Statistics
Touchdown = 6 points;
Safety = 2 points
Interception = 2 point
Fumble Recovery = 2 points
Sack = 1 point

Points Allowed
0-6 = 8 points
7-13 = 6 points
14-20 = 4 points
21-27 = 2 points
28+ = 0 points

Yards Allowed
0-49 = 12 points
50-99 = 10 points
100-149 = 8 points
150-199 = 6 points
200-249 = 4 points
250-299 = 2 points
300+ = 0 points

The Rules

Choose a starting lineup of eight NFL players. You will have 300 units (or salary cap dollars) to "spend" assembling your team. You will be able to change your lineup, without penalty, until the lineup setting deadline for the Wild Card Playoff Round. Once your lineup locks for the Wild Card Playoff Round, you will have eight lineup moves to make for the remainder of the postseason. You may use as many of the moves allotted in any round as you would like, however, you will not be able to exceed the eight moves allotted for the remainder of the postseason. In case there was any doubt, the number listed by each player is their “cap number”.

What this means for you: Pick as many winners (team, not individual) as you can for your lineup this week. For the most part, it's not good strategy to use any more than three players from any one team simply because an upset or two can severely hamper your ability to make roster moves later. Of course, you are also trying to score the most points each week, so there is a delicate balance between the present and the future. Generally speaking, if you can get at least four players on your Wild Card week roster that you would be willing to keep on your roster all the way through to the Super Bowl, you'll probably be in good shape. Ideally, I'll need about three roster moves next week, two for the AFC and NFC Championship Games and the last three for the Super Bowl. But at least for this week, the goal is to get the highest-scoring lineup out there that the cap will allow and contemplate the future when this week's games are decided.

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

Wild Card Weekend Results - 136 points
Divisional Round – 42 points
Conference Championship - 43 points

It's not even close to funny how far from grace this team has fallen so quickly. Let's see if I can't do this week with five players – Brees, Addai, Wayne, Colston and Clark – what I haven't been able to do with a full roster (for the most part) over the last two playoff weeks - score more than 85 total points. Bear in mind that I am out of roster moves, so my explanations will be brief and based on who I would play if I could.

Drew Brees, vs IND 86
Peyton Manning, vs NO 82

QB: Manning. It's hard to lose with either option here, but for me, it comes down to the opponent's defense - as it usually does. The Colts' defense is a strong, fundamental unit that does a great job of keeping the other team's offense out of the end zone. The Saints' defense is one that thrives on the pressure it generates and relies heavily on turnovers. While Manning isn't impervious to feeling the effects of the blitz or being rushed, he is now more machine than man (to quote a famous Return of the Jedi quote) on the field. Early on in a game, Manning is more prone to a throw-away or a sack, but rarely does he ever take a body blow, even if that means falling under the tackler before he has a chance to get hit. It doesn’t take long, however, before he is routinely turning those plays into five-to-eight-yard completions that result in a first down or second- or third-and short. And unlike just about any QB I've ever seen play, he generally has "figured out" whatever nuance the opponent's defensive coordinator is trying to focus on that week by the start of the second half, if not earlier. The Saints' DC, Gregg Williams, is one of the best in the game at his craft, but he isn't blessed with the personnel necessary to reinvent his defense from one half to the next, one of the many things that made Patriots HC Bill Belichick so successful vs. Manning for so long. Williams' defense (at least this year's edition) must blitz to create pressure, so while Indy may struggle to score initially - as it has vs. Baltimore and New York – Manning isn't prone to a high-turnover game and, thus, will have a better opportunity to post yards and scores than Brees, who must pass against a stingy defense that is unlikely to give up more than 1-2 scores.

In all honesty, I think New Orleans would be best served by encouraging the Colts to run in this game by giving Manning soft fronts (such as a 3-3-5 defense) and the infamous "UFO" defense in which one defender at most is in a three-point stance before the snap while the others attempt to confuse the blocking assignments. Certainly, no NFL defense can make a living by sticking with this kind of defensive approach all game long, but any defensive tactic that confound Manning for a couple series or more is a great thing, especially to keep him a bit off-balance for what the Saints really want to do from the start, which is blitz and get hits on him early. Unlike any other QB in the game, a defense almost needs to enter a game vs. the Colts with a first-half gameplan and an almost entirely different plan of attack in the second half.

As explosive as the Saints are on offense, I’m not sure they want to turn this game into a shootout. Giving Manning the opportunity to throw 40+ times allows the Colts to play to their strength; running the ball 30+ times does not. Conversely, New Orleans is the better running team and its defense is better at forcing turnovers, so it is in the team’s best interest to make Indy score on 10-15 play drives as to give the defense more opportunities to strip the ball.

Running Backs
Joseph Addai, vs NO 47
Pierre Thomas, vs IND 37
Reggie Bush, vs IND 27
Donald Brown, vs NO 15

RB2: Thomas. PT gave us all another glimpse as to why he should be a feature back in the league vs. Minnesota. Unfortunately, he can't seem to stay healthy for owners (or HC Sean Payton) long enough for his coach to give him an extended look in that role. However, Bush showed us vs. Dallas the week before the very reason why Payton can't give Thomas a long audition in the feature-back role. Thus, it's a guessing game from week-to-week whether this will be the week where Bush's 8-10 touches will net a big-play TD or 40 total yards OR if Thomas will turn his 15+ touches into a couple scores or 50-60 total yards. Factor in Lynell Hamilton, who apparently now has a stranglehold on the short-yardage carries, and it becomes very trying for a fantasy owner to figure out which Saints back to plug into the lineup. In the end, Thomas is the player who routinely sees the most touches and, in situations such as this one, playing the odds on who will get the most touches is still the best way to go.

RB1: Addai. After showing next to nothing in a 14-touch, 37-total yard effort vs. Baltimore, Addai gave his owners a bit more production against the Jets in a 17-touch, 93-total yard performance. Forgetting for just a moment that he has faced two top defenses so far, most of Addai's fantasy value this year came from his 13 total TDs, especially in a non-PPR scoring format such as this one. As an actual RB, he has been average at best for some time now, posting a 3.8 YPC this year (and nothing more than 4.1 YPC) since his rookie season. His longest run in the last three years has been 23 yards, meaning the odds he is going to erupt vs. the Saints courtesy of a huge run are minimal. With that said, Addai has not gone more than two games all season without scoring a rushing TD and New Orleans has given up at least one rushing score in six straight contests (including two or more in three of those games), so despite the total lack of sizzle that Addai brings to the table, the Colts' offense should guarantee the fourth-year runner a RB1-worthy fantasy game.

Wide Receivers
Reggie Wayne, vs NO 43
Marques Colston, vs IND 37
Robert Meachem, vs IND 32
Austin Collie, vs NO 26
Pierre Garcon, vs NO 24
Devery Henderson, vs IND 22

WR2: Colston. As much as I have applauded the Colts' defense to this point, it surprisingly allowed a handful of huge receiving performances during the regular season, including several to big WRs (Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson, and Randy Moss). While that trio could scorch any defense at any time, the size of the numbers was what was eye-catching. Marshall (21 catches) and Moss (9-179-2) were particularly outstanding. The point to be made here is that even though Indy plays defense the way it was meant to be played, it would seem at some point it must pay for not having an elite CB to keep the opponent's WR1 somewhat in check. Given New Orleans' attack philosophy, this game has some potential in that regard. The Saints have been notorious for spreading the wealth in the passing game over the past few years, but I expect them to play catch-up at several points throughout the game and a few forced throws into Colston sure sounds about right to me. To his discredit, Colston hasn't been coming up with the same catches on those "jam jobs" from Brees that he was earlier in the season, but he is still the QB's most trusted option.

WR1: Wayne. By all accounts, Wayne played much better than I expected last week and produced at a slightly higher fantasy level than I forecasted against Jets CB Darrelle Revis. Granted, he didn't have a huge game, but Indy didn't completely ignore him and even used formation (trips bunch) in an effort to give him some pre-snap separation from Revis. While the Saints' CBs are vastly improved from years past, I don't suspect DC Gregg Williams will be doubling Wayne all that often, especially in light of the games Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon enjoyed vs. the Jets, not to mention the thought of TE Dallas Clark running free down the middle of the field. Thus, I expect a return to normalcy for Wayne in the Super Bowl (with a possible SB MVP nod if the voters are completely blinded by the name and greatness of Manning).

Tight Ends
Dallas Clark, vs NO 40
Jeremy Shockey, vs IND 18
David Thomas, vs IND 10

TE: Clark. This one's pretty simple. Shockey continues to play through pain, stealing just enough snaps from Thomas to make him a viable "cheap" play for owners that still have a roster move or two they can make. It’s also hard to ignore that Shockey will be playing this game in the same city he played his college ball at years ago, but he is a hard player to count on in fantasy due to his propensity for injury. Despite a slew of double teams last week, Clark still delivered in the end in fantasy. The Saints may subscribe to the same aggressive defensive approach as the Jets do, but the only area in which New Orleans routinely fares better is in the turnover department. Yards and scores may be plentiful in this game - and Clark should be a big part of it - so play him and don't think twice about it.

Matt Stover, vs NO 14
Garrett Hartley, vs IND 8

K: Stover. I'd be mildly surprised if there are any more than two FG attempts from any one kicker in this game, so I'm not banking on a huge day from either Stover or Hartley. But whereas I believe the Saints' offense may struggle at times throughout the game to move the ball, I don't think the Colts will all that often. This game should be high-scoring, but I see many of New Orleans' points coming later in the game in a comeback attempt, meaning Hartley won’t be kicking all many field goals. I'll take two FGs from Stover and about four XPs.

Saints D/ST vs IND 40
Colts D/ST vs NO 24

DST: Colts. I'd be very tempted to take the Saints' defense if it wasn't for the fact that they were facing the Colts. Manning probably isn't going to throw all that many INTs and Indy just doesn't fumble a great deal or give up a lot of sacks (six fumbles, 13 sacks allowed during the regular season). Thus, I'd be hoping for a Reggie Bush punt return or Courtney Roby kick return would end up in the end zone, which is just another thing I don't think Indianapolis is going to let happen, even if that means punting the ball out of bounds to make Bush a non-factor. It's not as if the Colts are going to pile up the sacks or turnovers themselves, but they are more apt to hold the Saints to a respectable point total than the other way around.

Fuzzy's Playoff Leagues

(Two leagues)

Wild Card Weekend Results - 174 points (both leagues)
Divisional Round - 130 points ($25 team), 94 points ($50 team)
Conference Championship - 132 points ($25 team), 111 points ($50 team)

Fuzzy's playoff format is much more streamlined than Sportsline's. Fuzzy's uses traditional PPR scoring (all TDs worth six points) with no salary cap, no limit on roster moves between rounds and no yards allowed bonuses for the defenses. In short, your goal is to pick the highest-scoring lineup each week with no strings attached. The main difference outside of the ones I've already mentioned is that Fuzzy's leagues contain no more than 50 teams whereas Sportsline employs 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 bonus for their troubles.

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

(Because the players/matchups are same as they are above, I'll skip the step of mentioning each player again and get right to my choices.)

QB: Manning. I'll give the nod in this high-powered QB battle to Manning – who brings more weapons to the party this week than does Brees – against a defense that is of lesser quality than the two he has already faced in the playoffs. The Saints may be able to get a few shots on Manning throughout the game, but I suspect Manning will be landing a few more “big blows” than will Gregg Williams' charges.

RB: Addai and Thomas. Reggie Bush will remain a consideration for me all week, but if there is one defense that probably doesn't mind lining up against him, it is the speedy Colts defense. Thomas has many of the same abilities that Bush does, but is a better power rusher and inside runner than his former Heisman Trophy-winning teammate. Addai is a fairly similar fantasy back to Thomas (in terms of touches, ability to score and overall role), but has been able to keep Donald Brown from securing too big of a role in the offense. I'm not expecting huge point totals from either player, but I do believe each RB will find the end zone.

HC Sean Payton supposedly told Bush on Media Day that he “should be ready to have his tongue hanging out” (or something to that effect) at the end of Sunday’s game. Bush’s biggest workload this season was 16 touches in Week 3 – the week in which Thomas returned from his preseason knee injury. Meanwhile, Thomas routinely gets at least 16 touches. Ultimately, whether Thomas or Bush fares better will boil down to the type of game that breaks out – if the game is close throughout, Thomas and Hamilton will probably bear the load. If the Saints consistently find themselves 7-10 points down for most of the game, Bush could easily rack up 6-8 catches and find himself as New Orleans’ best fantasy RB this week. It should be noted that Bush hasn’t strung together three straight double-digit fantasy games since Weeks 1-3…of the 2008 season. (In case you were wondering, he’s on a two-game streak of 10+ points.) On the other hand, Thomas is on an eight-game run of 10 or more fantasy points in PPR leagues.

WR: Wayne, Colston and Collie/Garcon. It's pretty telling that a matchup between two Super Bowl teams can produce more worthy fantasy options than starting slots, but the Colts and Saints have exactly that. I detailed Wayne and Colston above, so I'll focus on the young Indy WR duo here. In terms of a team's third option in the passing game, Collie is a bit more of a constant while Garcon is more of a wild-card. As much as I don't believe in streakiness in a week-to-week sport like football, Garcon's numbers have been exactly that all season long. After posting a single-digit fantasy performance in the season opener (after Anthony Gonzalez went down), Garcon posted 10+ points in his next three games. After three subpar performances followed that stretch, the Mount Union grad had double-digit fantasy performances in each of his next five contests. Four straight poor games followed that run before he blew up in the AFC Championship. Meanwhile, Collie hasn't turned in more than one bad PPR game in a row since Weeks 1-3 (understandable for a rookie). In fact, he has posted fewer than 10 points only once since Week 11. Thus, I'm going to ride Collie in the $25 league that I need "reliable points" while I'm going to hope for another huge game from Garcon in the $50 league in which I have significant ground to make up.

Devery Henderson has stepped in for an injured Robert Meachem and produced TDs in both of the Saints' playoff games so far, but I just can't see the Colts giving up that much to a one-trick pony like Henderson. This game could be one in which Lance Moore steps up, but I just can't allow myself to play him when I have a healthier, more reliable option like Collie.

TE: Clark. For the reasons I specified above, Clark is the clear play here.

K: Stover/Hartley. I believe Stover is the play, which is why I am rolling with him in the league in which I am currently two points out of first place. Obviously, I'm hoping that Hartley outperforms Stover for my $50 team as I could use every single point I can muster from my team this week in an effort to climb back on the leaderboard.

D/ST: Colts/Saints. The long and short of this selection is that I feel the Colts have a better chance to give up fewer points than do the Saints. For my $50 team, I'm going to hope for that return TD I don't think will happen and a few forced fumbles.

All in all, I expect a well-played, fairly high-scoring game from both teams with very few turnovers and/or sacks. I don’t expect a record-setting point total that some folks in the media do, but Colts DE Dwight Freeney’s likely absence from this game may make things very interesting

SB XLIV Prediction: Colts 34, Saints 31

e-mail me with any questions/comments.