Fantasy Playoff RankingsTuesday, January 04, 2011
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Dan O'Brien, a senior oddsmaker at Las Vegas Sports Consultants, can't remember a playoff team with longer odds than Seattle's 250-1 this year. "It's tough to imagine
," O'Brien said. "You'd have to go back to a team having to beat the dominant (Chicago) Bears or dominant San Francisco) 49ers back in the 1980s. Even then you're talking about only two layers (of playoffs), not that third game. That's another multiplier as well."
The first team in NFL history to qualify for the playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike season is a gift from the fantasy playoff gods. In leagues where a position is forfeited when a starter's team loses, it's a good idea to load up on Saints for an early head start on the competition.
After scoring a league-leading 518 points, the Patriots are strong bets to play two home games before the Super Bowl. New England leads the playoff field with 6-5 odds, in large part because Tom Brady
has lost just one game since the start of the 2007 season. That dominance is reflected in this year's playoff rankings.
Rounding out the Super Bowl odds as off Tuesday morning: Steelers 9-2
In addition to the Saints, I plan on loading up on Ravens and Colts in the wild card round. The Chiefs went 8-2 against teams that finished with a losing record and 2-4 against teams .500 or better. I still don't understand what the Jets hang their hat on right now. They're certainly not a dominant defensive team, and they haven't run the ball well in a meaningful game since the first half of the season.
The stars on the Packers and Eagles are ultimate boom-or-bust picks. That game is the biggest pick'em matchup of the wild card round. It's not just that either team could win, but also that either team could blow the other out with the right momentum. It's not hard to envision Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin catching fire and torching the Green Bay secondary. It seems just as likely, however, that Dom Capers will dial up the pressure on Vick just as the Vikings and Giants have done to success.
Where it gets exceedingly murky in the NFC is the divisional round. The Saints, Eagles, and Packers are every bit as talented as the Bears and Falcons. The Eagles blew out the Falcons early in the season, the Saints knocked them off at the Georgia Dome in Week 16, and the Packers were one Aaron Rodgers fumble away from pulling off the same feat in Atlanta. With an 11-5 record artificially inflated by bad calls in both games to the Lions, matchups against backup quarterbacks, and just plain luck, the Bears just aren't that imposing. Sorry, Bears fans. I love your franchise, but this year's team leaves me with no confidence.
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.
1. Tom Brady
2. Drew Brees
Brady is playing as well right now as any quarterback has ever played the position. He's working on streaks of 28 consecutive home wins as a starter, 335 consecutive pass attempts without an interception and nine straight games with two or more passing TDs and no interceptions. The Saints aren't losing to the Seahawks, so Brees is almost guaranteed two games.
3. Ben Roethlisberger
4. Peyton Manning
5. Michael Vick
6. Aaron Rodgers
7. Matt Ryan
8. Jay Cutler
9. Joe Flacco
Don't sleep on the Steelers' passing game. With the spotlight shining on a porous offensive line, it's gone unnoticed that rookie receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown have emerged next to Mike Wallace to inject a dynamic element into the aerial attack. Manning has traditionally owned Rex Ryan defenses. Vick and Rodgers were the top two fantasy QBs this season, and one of them will get at least two games. The Falcons and Bears won't be big favorites in their divisional round contests. Flacco's playoff struggles the past two seasons are reason for pause.
10. Mark Sanchez
11. Matt Cassel
12. Charlie Whitehurst
13. Matt Hasselbeck
Let someone else gamble on Sanchez's bum shoulder. I'm not buying Cassel's numbers artificially inflated by the weakest pass defense schedule I've ever seen. The Seahawks are preparing both quarterbacks to start this week's game. It wouldn't be a bad idea to get Whitehurst the playoff experience since Hasselbeck is unlikely to return in 2011.
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