Like the NFL itself, fantasy football doesn't take any days off.
This even applies to Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. So it goes when a game features Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, stellar running backs, household names at wide receiver and plenty of players who could attain the same status by the time one team hoists the Lombardi Trophy.
While fantasy owners waved goodbye to the season in the fantasy playoffs (or earlier), Sunday presents one last official goodbye to fake football before things turn toward fantasy draft season.
With Newton, Manning and others, it's going to be one heck of a farewell. Here's a look at the top names.
Carolina Fantasy Projections
|Cam Newton||QB||315 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 14 rush att, 66 yds, 1 TD|
|Jonathan Stewart||RB||22 att, 86 yds, 1 TD|
|Greg Olsen||TE||6 rec, 112 yds, 1 TD|
|Ted Ginn Jr.||WR||3 rec, 99 yds, 1 TD|
|Corey Brown||WR||5 rec, 68 yds|
Newton didn't just lead all fantasy quarterbacks in scoring this year—he led all scorers.
The borderline surefire MVP posted double-digit production in every game of the season by not only throwing for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns, but by rushing for 636 yards and 10 scores.
Long story short, there's little doubt Newton will post another epic line. From a fantasy standpoint, Denver allowed the fewest points to quarterbacks on average this year. But Newton doesn't really have any equal.
Look at it this way—Seattle ranked just behind Denver in terms of points allowed to quarterbacks. Newton posted 19 points on that defense in Week 6. The Arizona Cardinals didn't rank far behind either team against quarterbacks, yet Newton had four total touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game, a 49-15 embarrassment.
Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips put it best, according to ESPN's Ed Werder:
Newton's impact has obvious implications on the rest of his offense.
Tight end Greg Olsen finished as fantasy's fourth-scoring tight end this year with seven trips to double digits. He's actually in for a rather large game, not just because of Newton, but due to the fact Denver struggled against the position, allowing the 12th-most points to tight ends.
More attention will probably go to big-play threat Ted Ginn Jr., though. He surprisingly ranked among the top 25 scorers at wideout this year with six double-digit outings to his name, including a three-game streak of 20 or more points while he totaled six touchdowns.
With the Broncos focused on Newton's ability to break free of the pocket and Olsen, Ginn should have plenty of chances to make splash plays. So too should Corey Brown, who quietly went off for 113 yards and a score against the strong Arizona defense.
With Newton running things, his rather unheralded supporting cast won't have problems sending the fantasy football season off in style.
Denver Fantasy Projections
|Peyton Manning||QB||202 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT|
|Ronnie Hillman||RB||44 yds|
|C.J. Anderson||RB||98 yds|
|Demaryius Thomas||WR||5 rec, 66 yds, 1 TD|
|Emmanuel Sanders||WR||9 rec, 101 yds, 1 TD|
The Denver offense went as Manning went this year, which from an on-field and fantasy perspective wasn't so impressive.
Despite high draft slotting by owners, Manning disappointed with injuries and a benching mixed in for good measure by ranking outside of the top 30 scorers at the position. He posted four double-digit outings but had an infamous showing in Week 10, tossing four picks and posting minus-seven points.
To be fair, Manning made a much-anticipated return in Week 17. It wasn't much help for fantasy owners by then, but he did lead the team to a win and subsequently got them to this point.
The task gets much more difficult in the Super Bowl, though, as ESPN Stats & Info was quick to point out:
Peyton Manning is 5th Super Bowl winning quarterback to face Panthers this season (Wilson, Rodgers, Brees, E. Manning). Others went 0-5— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 6, 2016
Carolina allowed the fourth-fewest points to quarterbacks, including some of the biggest names around.
This has a ripple effect on the entire fantasy outlook for the Broncos, as it has all season. Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson never really got it going in a notable manner from a fantasy standpoint, with neither ranking better than 19th in scoring.
Carolina allowed the 12th-fewest points to running backs, which places a bigger fantasy emphasis on Manning getting the ball to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the wideouts with household names.
Thomas and Sanders had plenty of positive press going into the season alongside Manning, so it's safe to say both didn't live up to expectations while the quarterback struggled. Thomas finished outside of the top 12 scorers, going for double digits just eight times. Sanders finished outside the top 15 with seven trips to double digits.
The topper? Carolina allowed the 11th-fewest points to wideouts. Josh Norman and Co. do well against opposing No. 1 receivers. Manning will spread it out when he can avoid the rush and hit whoever Norman isn't tracking on a given down, giving all involved at least respectable numbers.
With the Panthers looking like the eventual winners, it seems this game will be a strong lesson (or reminder) on how owners have to approach every position and lineup decision each week—the big name doesn't always win out, and averages, ranks, trends and individual matchups all weigh heavily on production.
This one will thrill, as a Super Bowl should. The fantasy owners who take away key lessons from the performances, though, will head to next season's fantasy drafts and beyond at an advantage.
All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as are points-against info and ownership stats. Stats courtesy of NFL.com and accurate as of January 30. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus. All betting information courtesy of Odds Shark.