As long as there are NFL games being played—regular season and postseason, that is—fantasy football is being played right along with it. At the current juncture, only two teams remain as the pool from which to select fantasy players: the Super Bowl XLVII participants.
The good news is that fantasy games in the NFL playoffs are typically of the salary cap variety, meaning you have the entire pool of players as options. Sifting through the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers to craft the ideal fantasy lineup results in a couple of easy decisions—but they aren’t all straightforward.
The last time Colin Kaepernick played in New Orleans, he was facing a historically bad New Orleans Saints defense and posted 258 total yards, two total touchdowns and an interception. But that was his first career start in a hostile environment, while the Super Bowl conceivably will be more neutral.
To say that he’s had better fantasy games since then would be a gross understatement; his rushing ability is the reason he holds the edge over Joe Flacco. Kaepernick’s rushing upside from the quarterback position is literally unparalleled: In a single game, no QB has ever run for more than his 181 rushing yards in the divisional round against the Green Bay Packers.
Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards last night. FROM ELIAS: Entering the game, the most by a QB in ANY game was 173 by Michael Vick.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 13, 2013
In two-running back leagues, the choice of fantasy RBs is simple: Frank Gore and Ray Rice are easily the top two fantasy options for the Super Bowl. Each averaged 20-plus carries over their last three games, but Gore is the single-best option.
The San Francisco 49ers' workhorse took 20-plus carries—and scored at least a touchdown—in each of his last three, while Rice’s workload has been less consistent. He took 16 touches in the wild card round, 30 in the divisional round and 22 in the conference championship.
Gore had 23 in Week 17, 25 in the divisional round and 21 in the conference championship.
Rice has more upside in terms of opportunity, but his workload tends to be more volatile—and the defense that he’s facing was the second-worst fantasy matchup for running backs in the regular season. The 49ers are also second-ranked in rushing yards per game allowed in the playoffs (92.5).
The San Francisco 49ers are stopping the run in the postseason, but only the Denver Broncos (324; one game) have allowed more passing yards per game than San Francisco (322.0; two games).
The Baltimore Ravens gave up 286.7 in their three games heading into the Super Bowl.
It makes sense, then, to primarily look to the Ravens’ pass-catchers as fantasy options for Super Bowl XLVII. Anquan Boldin has caught no fewer than five passes in any game since the playoffs began, while Torrey Smith has yet to grab five balls.
Smith had a two-touchdown effort (with 98 receiving yards) against Denver, but Boldin has the more recent two-touchdown game: five catches for 60 yards and two scores against the New England Patriots.
Boldin gets the most looks from Flacco. Smith gets the downfield targets, which are more conducive to explosive plays. Michael Crabtree has more targets (31), receptions (23), yards (348) and touchdowns (four) than either of them in his last three games.
That’s why he’s a must-start.
Which Ravens receiver belongs in the WR2 slot—the other one would be a prime flex option—depends on whether Baltimore can find and exploit a mismatch with the 49ers defense. In the divisional round, Smith was able to run straight by Champ Bailey and make plays down the field. As long as San Francisco is unable to live in the Baltimore backfield, Flacco should be looking in Smith’s direction.
The 49ers had two sacks in their first two playoff games.
Vernon Davis finally ended a five-game streak of one-catch games with a five-reception, 106-yard performance that also included a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC conference championship.
Davis’ elite talent at the tight end position has proved to be a massive fantasy tease over the last two months: Entering the conference championship, he was averaging one catch per game over his last seven.
Week 17 notwithstanding, Dennis Pitta brought down 4.1 passes per game in his last eight appearances. He also scored six touchdowns, while Davis ended a two-month end-zone drought against the Falcons.
Pitta is the choice at TE.
The Baltimore Ravens defense is statistically outperforming the San Francisco 49ers' in the playoffs: Baltimore is allowing 8.5 fewer points per game while picking off five passes and getting six sacks on the quarterback in three games.
In two games, San Francisco has two sacks and two picks.
The 49ers may not be able to get much pressure on Joe Flacco based on those numbers and the recent play of the Ravens offensive line. San Francisco’s O-line is also good, but what Baltimore’s defense has accomplished this postseason shouldn’t be overlooked now for fantasy purposes.
One Super Bowl kicker has been struggling with a “head-scratcher” (from NFL.com) of a season; the other is a rookie.
David Akers and Justin Tucker were each asked to kick two field goals in the current postseason. Tucker, the rookie from Texas, nailed both of his. Akers missed a 38-yarder, which is indicative of his season-long struggle with accuracy: 68.2 percent since the 2012 regular season began.
Tucker has made 91.4 percent of his.
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