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Doug Orth | Archive | Email | Twitter
Staff Writer

Wildcard Weekend
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 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 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 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 Drew Brees in the Wild Card round and the Saints 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 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 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 continued 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: 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 Divisional Round. (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:

T.J. Yates/Tim Tebow/Ben Roethlisberger/Andy Dalton/Drew Brees/Eli Manning/Matt Ryan/Matthew Stafford

On bye: Tom Brady/Joe Flacco/Aaron Rodgers/Alex Smith

Arian Foster/Ben Tate/Willis McGahee/Isaac Redman/Cedric Benson/Pierre Thomas/Darren Sproles/Chris Ivory/Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs/Michael Turner/Kevin Smith

On bye: BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Danny Woodhead/Ray Rice/Ryan Grant/James Starks/Frank Gore

Andre Johnson/Demaryius Thomas/Eric Decker/Mike Wallace/Antonio Brown/A.J. Green/Jerome Simpson/Marques Colston/Lance Moore/Hakeem Nicks/Victor Cruz/Roddy White/Julio Jones/Calvin Johnson/Nate Burleson/Titus Young

On bye: Wes Welker/Deion Branch/Anquan Boldin/Torrey Smith/Greg Jennings/Jordy Nelson/Michael Crabtree

Owen Daniels/Heath Miller/Jermaine Gresham/Jimmy Graham/Jake Ballard/Tony Gonzalez/Brandon Pettigrew

On bye: Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski/Ed Dickson/Dennis Pitta/Jermichael Finley/Vernon Davis

Neil Rackers/Matt Prater/Shaun Suisham/Mike Nugent/John Kasay/Lawrence Tynes/Matt Bryant/Jason Hanson

On bye: Stephen Gostkowski/Billy Cundiff/Mason Crosby/David Akers


On bye: Patriots/Ravens/Packers/49ers

Let’s get to my picks and my rationale for each position:

QB: Drew Brees. As if there was any doubt. Frankly, there are only four legitimate candidates to consider this week, in my opinion. Yates and Dalton are rookie QBs for conservative offenses. Defenses are learning the way to beat Tebow is to keep him in the pocket, so with the Steelers doing a fine job stopping the run over the second half of the season, Tebow is not a good bet to put up more than one score. Roethlisberger is still bothered by his ankle injury, making him and just about every other Steelers receiver a difficult play.

Therefore, we are left with the four NFC quarterbacks playing this weekend. The Giants-Falcons game is too close to call in my mind, so since I want the best player whose team also has a great chance to make a deep playoff run, I’ll look at the Detroit-New Orleans game. Fortunately, we can look to the teams’ Week 13 matchup for some guidelines on what to expect production-wise. It would qualify as a major upset if this game failed to produce at least 55 points, so with both teams very pass-happy and both defenses somewhat questionable (to be kind), this is the game to load up on in playoff fantasy leagues. Brees has a ridiculous 122.4 QB rating at home this season to go along with a 29:6 TD-INT ratio in those eight games, meaning he is the clear favorite to be the high scorer in fantasy this week. If you want an added bonus, San Francisco would be the Saints’ next opponent in the divisional round. While the matchup is not ideal, the Niners can be defeated through the air much easier than on the ground, which certainly works in New Orleans’ favor.

RB: Arian Foster and Ray Rice. In this kind of multiplier format, it is important to weigh a player’s potential production vs. the number of potential games that player is likely to play. Of the teams playing this weekend, I have little faith that the Falcons, Giants, Lions, Broncos and Bengals will play more than two games. Since none of these teams possess what I consider to be an elite RB, I feel safe in eliminating the runners from each of those teams.

Therefore, we are left with Foster, Tate, Redman, Sproles, Thomas and Ivory. Redman has three- or four-game potential, but I haven’t really bought the Steelers as a title contender all season long and I don’t exactly like their chances to beat Baltimore (or that potential matchup, for that matter) should they advance past Denver. Thomas and Ivory cancel each other out to a large degree and could see fewer touches in favor of the more explosive Sproles during the playoffs since the scatback’s workload has been managed so well this season, so we’ll drop the first two Saints’ RBs and advance Sproles. Obviously, we are left with the two Texans RBs at this point and the only true elite option at the RB position this week is Foster, who I tend to believe owners will get at least two games out of this playoff season. Tate’s usage – when Foster is healthy – depends too heavily the Texans’ ability to blow an opponent out, so I am left with getting a head start on next week (Foster-Rice) or production this week (Foster-Sproles) with the option to change my mind next week on Foster if the Texans face the Ravens without paying for it too much when it comes to the multiplier. Since I’m leaning towards a Ravens-Saints Super Bowl right now, I’ll go with the latter option. That way, I get an elite back’s production this week and a shot at the 2x and 3x multipliers with Rice in the coming weeks without taking a zero at the position this week.

WR: Victor Cruz and Marques Colston. Unlike the RB position, we have a number of studs available to us this week, which makes this selection process quite a bit more difficult. Once again, though, let’s eliminate some players from consideration given the offense they play in or their injury status. I have zero faith in the Broncos WRs to produce against Pittsburgh or play two games. While either Andre Johnson or A.J. Green will play two games, neither one is a good bet to play more than that and both play on average passing attacks. Johnson is also on a bit of a snap count (reportedly 40-50 this week). No one else from either team (such as Jerome Simpson or Kevin Walter) is even worth consideration in this format. Thankfully, we have already removed three of eight teams from consideration.

Once again, Steelers’ players warrant consideration, but I’ll pass with Roethlisberger still clearly slowed by his ankle injury and my doubts that Pittsburgh will play more than two games. I definitely like Julio Jones, Roddy White and Hakeem Nicks, but since I like what the Giants have done on defense lately and because Nicks will see Falcons CB Brent Grimes at least some of the time, I am hesitant to use any of those high-upside receivers. Calvin Johnson is a strong consideration here, but I am pretty confident the Saints will win at home this week by going to extreme measures to make sure someone else besides Megatron beats them, making him a questionable play and any other Lions’ receiver a dicey one-week play at best. Obviously, I want as many three- and four-week players on my team as possible. But I also don’t want to take a zero in the first week if I don’t have to, especially if I think one player is the play of the week at his position. That player in my opinion is Cruz, who is huge mismatch for every Falcons CB not named Brent Grimes. As for Colston, he should benefit from the added receptions he should get with Moore injured and the attention that Jimmy Graham attracts. By going with Colston, I should lock up at least three games of top-level WR production.

My plan at this moment is to replace Cruz with Nelson next week – which I’ll get into at that time – and pair him up with Colston until either the Saints or Packers are ousted. At that point, I’ll see what AFC receiver I like the most for the Super Bowl. This is not an ideal scenario, but with New Orleans my best bet for four games (and with Moore hurt and Devery Henderson/Robert Meachem so inconsistent), riding any other Saint WR is not a risk worth taking. The way I see it, I should only have to make four changes to my lineup over the next four weeks (three next week to replace Cruz, Foster and my defense and one to replace the receiver that doesn’t make the Super Bowl in the proposed Packers-Saints matchup).

TE: Jimmy Graham. This is a pretty clear-cut choice. The only other candidates that warrant consideration are Pettigrew and maybe Gonzalez, but since I believe both TEs are players on one-and-out teams, I’ll pass. I suppose I could make a case for Gronkowski, but I think I like the Saints’ chances of making the Super Bowl more than I do the Patriots’. If I turn out to be right here, there’s no reason to take a zero this week to play Gronkowski when I can get similar or better production from Graham this week as well as next week.

K: John Kasay. If there is one position where it makes sense to “play the matchups” each week in this scoring format, it might be here. Without a doubt, Akers is the best option but I’m not exactly giddy about the Niners’ odds of beating the Saints or Packers (although I believe they have a better shot than most think), making Akers a possible one-week option. But in my attempt to stay true to form, the Saints strike me as the team with the best shot at giving me three (if not four) games, so I’ll roll the dice that New Orleans will give me two shootouts (vs. Detroit and at Green Bay), one field-goal fest (at San Francisco) while giving me the added caveat of a possible fourth game, which no other kicker playing this weekend has in my honest opinion.

D/ST: Steelers. This is another position in which it would make sense to play the matchup each week. Because the “team win” component stands out for the defense/special teams, it becomes quite advantageous to select a unit that will likely win unless a projected losing defense can be counted on to score on a return (which typically it cannot).

Again, I’m going to give Houston, Denver, Cincinnati, New York, Atlanta and Detroit the boot right off the bat because I don’t believe any of them have a great shot at playing more than two games. This quickly leaves us with just Pittsburgh and New Orleans from this week’s teams and the Saints simply don’t score enough fantasy points (or have great potential matchups) to justify using them. Of the defenses on a bye, only the Ravens and Packers warrant consideration since the Patriots’ defense is awful and I believe the Niners will be one-and-done. The Packers’ defense isn’t all that likely to score all that well next week vs. the Falcons/Giants winner. As for the Ravens’ defense, is it worth sacrificing the points I will get from Pittsburgh if it copies the blueprint of Denver’s last three opponents? I don’t think it is.

Fearless predictions for my selected team:
Brees: 380 passing yards, four passing TDs (31 fantasy points)
Foster: 80 rushing yards, one rushing TD, 40 receiving yards (18 points)
Sproles: 50 rushing yards, 40 receiving yards, one receiving TD (15 points)
Colston: 85 receiving yards, one receiving TD (14 points)
Cruz: 130 receiving yards, one receiving TD (19 points)
Graham: 90 receiving yards, one receiving TD (15 points)
Kasay: four extra points, two field goals (10 points)
Steelers DST: 10 PA, three sacks, three turnovers and a team win (18 points)

Projected Total: 140 fantasy points


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
  Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
QB Brees Brees Brees Brees
RB Foster Foster Foster Foster
RB Sproles Sproles Sproles Sproles
WR Colston Colston Colston Cruz
WR Cruz Cruz Cruz Nicks
WR White White Jones White
TE Graham Graham Graham Graham
K Kasay Nugent Nugent Kasay
DST Steelers Steelers Steelers Steelers
Tie Stafford Stafford Stafford Stafford

As I stated in the above section regarding the QBs, there are four realistic options this week – Brees, Manning, Stafford and Ryan. Although Manning and Ryan are solid choices, both offenses believe in the ground game a bit much for my liking when it comes to fantasy production. Throw in the fact that the Giants and Falcons have been playing fairly good defense lately and I think it is in my best interest to avoid them for now. On the other hand, Brees and Stafford are each playing on aggressive, pass-heavy offenses that will continue passing almost regardless of game situation. Further consider that neither the Saints nor the Lions defense represents all that taxing of a matchup and you have the recipe for a plethora of fantasy points, which is why Brees and Stafford will serve as my starting QB or tiebreaker option on every team this week.

In this PPR format, I see only three RBs worth considering this week: Foster, Sproles and Bradshaw. Because I’m simply trying to find the top plays at each position in this format – as opposed to making decisions for next week and beyond in the game – I want dual-threat RBs that have a shot at the goal line. Strong cases could be made for Redman, Thomas, Turner and Smith for various reasons, but when it comes right down to it, how much do I trust any of those four RBs? For Redman, his value is limited if he doesn’t find the end zone, which is also the case that should be made against using Turner as well. Smith is too much of an injury risk, while Thomas usually registers fewer touches than Sproles and isn’t quite as explosive. Ultimately, Atlanta is a tough-enough run defense that I’ll roll with Foster and Sproles and bet that each player can produce 20 or more fantasy points for me.

As I alluded to above, I tend to believe receiver will be the position that helps playoff teams sink or swim this postseason. With so many quality options, let’s just cut straight to the most serious candidates: Brown, Colston, Nicks, Cruz, White, Jones and Calvin Johnson. Mike Wallace usually lines up on the right side of the formation (especially since Brown has emerged), which is typically the same receiver Champ Bailey squares off against. Brown has pretty much been Wallace’s equal since October, so if he draws Andre Goodman in coverage more than Wallace does, it suggests to me Brown could have a bigger day. Since we discussed Colston’s merits already, I’ll move on to the Giants’ WRs. Nicks is still Eli’s top option in New York, but I expect that he will draw the underrated Brent Grimes in coverage quite a bit whereas Cruz could have a field day in the slot should Chris Owens or Dominique Franks be tasked with guarding him. Keep an eye on Grimes’ health, however, because if he cannot go, both Nicks and Cruz could be in for huge games.

A similar case could be made for New York’s opponent, which has two elite options of its own. While Jones was one of fantasy’s best receivers at the close of the fantasy season, I will almost always err on the side of a player who sees the most targets and is his QB’s most-trusted receiver when setting a lineup, which is why I would lean ever so slightly towards White if I had to choose between the two. Last but not least, there is “Megatron”. Although he is perhaps the most physically-dominant receiver in the game today, I cannot erase the memory of the respect the Saints paid him in their first meeting. On at least one play at the goal line, they double-teamed as if he was a gunner on punt coverage. On other plays, they basically set up a five-yard-wide triangle around him, making it a foolish proposition to throw the ball in his direction. Perhaps I will regret it, but I doubt I will start Johnson in any of my leagues this week because I expect Saints DC Gregg Williams will use the same strategy this week to force Burleson or Young to win their individual battles.

At TE, Graham is an easy call for all the reasons I provided in the section. As for my kicker, field-goal distance matters, so I want an option that will net me at least 3-4 extra points and can provide me 2-3 field-goal opportunities. (If that kicker has the added benefit of playing in a dome, even better.) As a result, I’ll choose the kickers in the likely shootout in “The Big Easy” as well as the kickers at Reliant Stadium in what could turn into a battle of field goals. I’ll lean toward Kasay (because he should be busy all day) and Nugent (14 of his 33 made field goals this year came from over 40 yards, which gives me one more point than a >40-yard field goal does in this scoring system).

Without a doubt, I believe the Steelers have the best defensive matchup this week, even though I don’t like that S Ryan Clark will miss the game due to his sickle cell trait and how it affects him at altitude. Tebow still has much room for growth as a pocket passer, which is exactly what I expect DC Dick LeBeau will make him be in this game. Because Pittsburgh should also shut down McGahee, it is unlikely Denver will score more than 10 points on offense. When you also consider Tebow has been committing a number of turnovers lately, it just adds to the appeal of using the Steelers DST.

With very few exceptions, my tiebreaker picks each week will either be Brees, Rodgers or Brady. Not only do quarterbacks score the most fantasy points in this kind of scoring setup, but there are the best bets to post huge games each week.

One last note: I feel obligated to tell you that some of my selections could change between now and the start of the playoffs based on injury information and such, but I highly doubt I will make more than one or two alterations.

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.