Fantasy Playoff RankingsTuesday, January 05, 2010
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By the time the Bengals-Jets game started Sunday night, I didn't feel comfortable picking a favorite for any of the upcoming "Rematch Week" playoff games. After pouring over the columns of SI.com's Peter King
and Don Banks
and listening to Bill Simmons' mega playoff podcast
and Tony Kornheiser's Monday radio show
, I've finally achieved some much-needed clarity.
I hold the following playoff truths to be self-evident: The four first-round AFC teams are thoroughly underwhelming, making the Colts and Chargers the easiest picks to reach the Super Bowl.
The entire NFC field is a crapshoot, from top to bottom. Any team can knock off any other team, and all six squads have what it takes to make it to Miami. Your draft philosophy will come down to a personal conviction about the strongest team in what amounts to a toss-up tournament.
The NFC boasts the greatest group of quarterbacks ever to play in the same post-season. Brett Favre is a first-ballot Hall of Famer; Kurt Warner and Donovan McNabb are at least borderline Hall of Famers still playing at a high level; Drew Brees is the most accurate passer in the league and a legit MVP candidate; Aaron Rodgers is a Pro Bowler who racked up the most fantasy points; and Tony Romo has been as hot as any passer in the league over the past month.
Quarterbacks, stud receivers, and the top six tight ends are incredibly strong from a fantasy point of view. Running backs are unbelievably weak, and the second tier tight ends are practically useless. Waiting a few rounds for a running back this year is a perfectly viable strategy.
Here's a quick rundown of each wild card round game:
Ravens at Patriots: The only game that isn't a rematch features a team that hasn't lost at home against a team that hasn't beaten a good quarterback on a quality team since Week 2. On the flip side, the Ravens top Football Outsiders' team efficiency rankings and have played quality opponents well enough to have finished 15-1 if the breaks had gone their way. Other factors include the loss of Wes Welker, the Ravens banged up secondary, and an unpredictable Joe Flacco. Ultimately, I'm siding with Bill Belichick's coaching acumen and a strong home field advantage.
Jets at Bengals: It was a dream matchup for the Jets last week, and it remains the best matchup for them again this week. Revis Island can shut down a gimpy Chad Ochocinco, and the ghost of Carson Palmer is being set up for failure against the league's most dominant pass defense. Meanwhile, the Jets can and will run on the Bengals. Though Cincy's Week 17 debacle dropped the run defense from second to seventh in the NFL rankings, they dropped from 17th to 20th in Football Outsiders rankings – which account for strength of schedule and game situation. Even with a rookie quarterback on the road, the Jets are set up for success in an obvious defense/running game matchup.
Eagles at Cowboys: The NFC games are much harder to pick. The Cowboys are a more balanced team than the Eagles, and they clearly match up well. The Eagles have the better coach, the quarterback with more playoff success, and the most explosive player on the field. Dallas gets the slight edge with homefield advantage and a three-game roll featuring an upset over the Saints followed by two straight shutouts.
Packers at Cardinals: This is another game where one team appears to match up better than the other. The Packers have traveled to Arizona twice this season, whipping the Cardinals in Week 3 of the preseason and repeating again last week in a meaningless game. Arguably the hottest team in the NFC, Packers are 7-0-1 against the spread the past eight weeks while Arizona is dealing with key injuries to Anquan Boldin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Calais Campbell. It's a close call, but I can't pull the trigger on the home dogs.
On to the rankings. For a quick primer on playoff fantasy football, check out Evan Silva's how-to column from a few years ago. The rules are similar to regular fantasy football, except that total points are the key. Pick a starting team, possibly a bench, and let them go at it. Myfantasyleague.com is hosting free playoff leagues.
Editor's Note: Looking for another way to keep the fantasy season going? Try playing Snapdraft. We have it set up just for the playoffs. Draft a team before the playoffs start!