Wild Card Weekend, Part One: Saturday's Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders
Here we are in the postseason, and just because the regular season is over, that doesn’t mean your fantasy football season has to come to and end.
Before we dive into our offseason coverage on how to make you a better fantasy football player and more attractive to the opposite sex, we’ll be covering the playoffs “game preview” style and starting with this week’s Wild Card Weekend.
In fact, I’ll be playing the ESPN Gridiron Playoff Challenge just to satisfy the itch for a few more weeks. You have no idea how good a hit it is…
I’d offer prizes, but then I would have to give something away—and didn’t we just do enough of that this holiday season. As a worthy substitute, you could consider joining up with the Bruno Boys’ league and stealing some of their prized booty.
Now, on to the previews…that’s why you’re here anyway, not for the Booty.
Atlanta Falcons at Arizona Cardinals
Holy crap! The Buzzsaw in the postseason IN Arizona—and they barely sold enough tickets. I am not sure who takes this game. I know the Cardinals have the horrible playoff reputation and the shaky games as of late, but if you don’t think that Anquan Boldin is going to be head slamming people to make a playoff win happen, then you just don’t respect your facial bones.
You have to love Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin here in what could be a high-scoring affair. Matt Ryan won’t be a slouch, but rookie quarterbacks don’t have a good record in the playoffs.
Michael Turner is the best lock there is in this game—and I’m starting him. If Atlanta does get the win, it will be because of Turner. The Cardinals could let him go off early in the game even if the Falcons don’t get to control the clock with a lead in the second half.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, have a risky situation at running back with Edgerrin James likely to get a start and Tim Hightower vulturing touchdowns. I’d take James if you need a yardage guy, but I’m not sure you can bet on the Cardinals scoring enough on the ground to make Hightower a good play.
If it came down to salary cap, I’d pay the price for Turner and Warner if you can afford it. More power to you if you can afford to grab Anquan Boldin or Larry Fitzgerald, but I dislike the probability that one goes off in spite of the other. They are two-headed receiving beast, and it’s hard to pick just one.
Roddy White makes a great bargain since we know he’ll be targeted quite a bit by the rookie QB and faces a Cardinals defense always ready to give up the big play—even to Tarvaris Jackson. White’s good for at least one score, and he’s more of a sure thing than the Arizona receivers.
I’m projecting this one ends up on the over rather than the under—currently set at an over/under of 51 points. If you can get your hands on any of these guys, I’d do it. There probably won’t be much kicking in this one, but Jason Elam and Neil Rackers should see a little short action when drives are stalled short of a score. I’d lean towards Elam.
And, obviously, I wouldn’t look to start either of these teams on defense this weekend.
Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers
It’s actually a good thing that this game is away. Even though the Colts looked more at home in their new stadium late in the season, it’s not quite the comfort zone it should be yet, and they already beat the Chargers in San Diego once at h this year. Now, they just have to go back and do it again.
In the first matchup, it was a close contest decided by a game-ending kick from Adam Vinatieri. The Chargers just left too much time on the clock when they tied it up and gave the ball back to Peyton Manning. It’ll probably look a lot similar tonight.
That said, Peyton Manning is probably the best fantasy bet you can take this postseason with Rivers just slightly behind him. Both quarterbacks have gone off several times this season, but Manning has the Chargers defense in his favor and a hot streak on his way into the playoffs.
The Colts defense, while questionable, is pretty good against the pass, and they could at least encourage San Diego to take a different approach.
The Chargers will probably look to LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles to support their efforts and keep Manning off the field, so I like both of them. For salary cap purposes, I’d actually go with a bargain in Darren Sproles, who had two touchdowns to L.T.’s three in the season finale against the Broncos. Sproles’ explosiveness is worth betting on for the price he’ll run you.
UPDATE: With news breaking of L.T.’s injury, Sproles looks like an even better play. L.T. will still make a go of it, but it’s hard to say how much he will be able to do. Looks unlikely that he’ll be a big factor.
The Colts backs are not nearly as valuable. There are too many question marks around Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes to trust them. Even when Addai starts, Rhodes sometimes gets the scores. I’d avoid them if you can.
As far as the receivers, I like Reggie Wayne, of course, and Vincent Jackson just a slight bit less. From there, it gets iffy. I’d rather have Dallas Clark than any other tight end in the playoffs at this point, even over Antonio Gates or Bo Scaife, once the Titans start playing.
Again, there’s not much to bet on with these two defenses. The Colts are questionable and the Chargers are not trustworthy. With such a selection of defenses playing tomorrow, it’d be better to choose between Miami or Baltimore in what should be a contest decided by who plays the most mistake-free football.
With an over/under of 50 in this game as well, it’s a safe bet to go with Colts and Chargers offensive studs when you can get your hands on them. Manning should be worth the price, and Rivers is a decent substitute if the commercial buckethead is out of your price range.
Adam Vinatieri is a good choice at kicker, but other options like David Akers and Ryan Longwell look good for tomorrow’s games as well. It is, as always, a toss up at kicker. Flip a coin, throw a dart at the board and then just pick one.
The good thing about salary caps in playoff fantasy football is that you can just use however much money you have left over for your kicker after you’ve put together your team. Easy call.
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