Fantasy football playoffs are a week around the corner for the majority of leagues, with a typical run from Week 14 to the championship game in Week 16. Let me know how that goes for you, since I have somehow found a way to break the all-time record for "most ways to lose in a single season." I'd like to actually write some 'Thank You' cards for a few select people:
Thank You, Larry Fitzgerald. This is misdirected anger at the John Skelton, Kevin Kolb's ribs and the Cardinals organization for not having a single coherent idea of how to judge quarterback talent, but anger nonetheless for the worst second round pick I've ever made.
Thank You, Jordy Nelson for being a late active against the Cardinals in Week 9 and then leaving the game when you got hurt on your first target. Not "catch" mind you, but target. If I was a less attentive fantasy owner and kept you benched, I would somehow be a better fantasy owner.
Thank You, Darren McFadden. Injuries, I can understand. But where did 3.3 yards per carry come from? Once again, your backup appears to be more productive.
Thank You, Aaron Hernandez's ankle. Walk much?
Where my anger is not directed at are my quarterbacks. Peyton Manning has had a phenomenal comeback and his (my) backup Matt Schaub is no slouch. (Though at times I've been a slouch at picking the right one to start.) It's with that that I now present to you the best and worst quarterback plays for the Fantasy Playoffs (FPOs) and I start with the man just mentioned...
1. Matt Schaub
Few people think of Matt Schaub when they are asked who the "elite" quarterbacks are, but there have been few better quarterbacks in the last five years. Since 2009, Schaub is 8th in touchdown passes (while missing six games), throws fewer interceptions on a per attempt basis than Philip Rivers and Eli Manning, and has posted a higher yard per attempt ratio than Drew Brees, Eli, Matt Ryan, and Peyton Manning. Is Schaub elite?
Well, we'd probably only reserve that title for Brees, Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning, but he's near the top of the pile of whatever comes after elite. "Pretty Awesome"?
He might look elite during the fantasy playoffs though, as the Texans face the 29th ranked pass defense of New England, 19th ranked Indy, and 14th ranked Minnesota. It's not just "total passing defense" that matters though. The Pats have allowed 22 touchdown passes, the Colts 19 (and only 5 INT), the Vikings 18 TD and 6 INT.
Two of the three games come at home, where Schaub is posting a 105 QB rating compared to an 81 rating on the road. There's a high probability that Schaub is going to be "pretty awesome" and post the best numbers for quarterbacks during the fantasy playoffs.
2. Cam Newton
More like Cam Who-ton, am I right?
Well no, I am not right. It's clearly "Cam Newton" and it says so on his jersey. The real Newotn showed up on Monday night when Newton scored four total touchdowns and had his best game of the year so far. I say "so far" because there's a chance that Newton is just beginning his reign of terror in 2012, and literally he is just beginning because what a disappointing year it's been.
However, the regular-season-disappointment could become the-player-that-now-becomes-the-QB-for-a-high-number-of-fantasy-champions.
Newton has never beaten the Falcons, but he does have six touchdowns in three games. The Chargers pass defense is mediocre, but the biggest favor of all is that Newton gets the biggest bonus of anyone during championship Week 16: Playing the Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders are giving up points like "Giving up points" is the number one thing that girls look for in a guy. Five touchdowns for Newton is well in the range of possibilities, and maybe even higher than that.
3. Peyton Manning
Call me "Captain Obvious" because Peyton Manning is a solid bet to be a top QB when it (fantasy) matters. Is Adrian Peterson or Manning the better comeback story? Who cares, they're both potentially the best comeback stories of the decade. Manning misses a whole year, his "career is in jeopardy" and now he's maybe the best QB in the league again. This was not something that he could claim going into his mid-30s, seemingly on a decline and posting a 91.9 QB rating and 17 interceptions in the year before he got a pain in the neck.
Now the best QB in the league gets the LOLRaiders in week one of the FPOs and the Browns during championship week. Cleveland has improved their defensive numbers, but Manning should be a good bet for 300 and a couple scores at home. Manning has thrown 13 TD and 1 INT at Mile High.
4. Josh Freeman
Freeman has had the bounceback season that many people expected after the Bucs went out and got him some better weapons to work with. He could have still been had on a lot of fantasy free agent markets after starting with 5 TD and 4 INT in his first four games, but he went on a tear after that: 16 TD and 3 INT in his next six.
Josh Freeman is coming off of an Atlanta game that saw him go scoreless for the first time this year, but it should also be the last goose egg. You will definitely want to start him against the Eagles and Saints over the first two weeks of the FPOs, but revert back to caution with his Week 16 matchup against the Rams.
Freeman is slightly better at home, where Tampa plays two of their three FPO games.
5. Andrew Luck
I'm not so certain that the golden boy is a better rookie QB than Peyton Manning was. Consider that even though Manning threw 28 interceptions as a rookie, eleven of those came in his first four games. Over his last twelve, Manning had 2,747 yards, 23 TD, 17 INT, and the Colts went 3-9. (Okay, that's not a great record, but it's better than 3-13. By four games!)
So through eleven games, Andrew Luck has 3,205 yards, 13 TD and 13 INT. Way more yards, but Luck is attempting way more passes per game and yet that has resulted in fewer scores. However, Luck also has five rushing touchdowns so what am I even talking about?
The Texans provide a difficult matchup (and he plays them twice in the final three games) but the Titans and Chiefs do not. Maybe the Chiefs even rest their starters for the draft!
Top Sleeper: Sam Bradford
Hey guys. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey. Hey.
Sam Bradford. Remember him? Well, Bradford has thrown for 2 TDs in three straight games (career-high streak) and five straight games with at least one touchdown. With Danny Amendola healthy-ish and Chris Givens quickly emerging as his first real deep threat, Bradford has weapons.
The 2-TD streak might end this week against the 49ers, but then it's smooth sailing during the FPOs for Bradford. The Bills are the Bills, the Vikings are susceptible, and the Buccaneers rank last against the pass. If you find yourself in a bind as the FPOs are moving along, Bradford might be the guy to pull you out.
1. Philip Rivers
Potentially in a move to finally get Norv Turner fired, Rivers has thrown 36 interceptions in his last 39 games.
The Steelers have allowed just 12 passing touchdowns in eleven games and the fewest passing yards. The Panthers are surprisingly good against the pass and have forced eight turnovers in their last three games. The Jets are not as good without Darrelle Revis, but they should fare alright against the Chargers.
@ Packers, @ Cardinals, Falcons
Is there a less efficient way to lead the NFL in passing yards than what Matthew Stafford is doing? Only 14 touchdowns to show for it with 7 yards per attempt. Eight of those have come in the fourth quarter, leaving you in doubt for much of the day and getting angrier and angrier with Mad-threw Stafford. (He was frustrating last year when he threw 41 touchdowns, how frustrated do you think people are this year?)
The Packers provide above-average pass coverage, it's the best thing that the Cardinals can do, and the Falcons only allow one passing touchdown per game. I don't expect Stafford to turn it around when it's most important even if it's the "fourth quarter of the NFL season."
San Diego isn't very good against the pass but this should be Roethlisberger's first game back. The Cowboys are one of the worst teams in the NFL at forcing turnovers and interceptions but have only allowed 15 touchdown passes. The Bengals are a top ten team against the pass. Still wraps around the fact that Ben should be limited with his latest injury.
4. Tony Romo
@ Bengals, Steelers, Saints
The Saints provide a nice FPO championship matchup, but the Bengals and Steelers we've already gone over. Not to mention the fact that we are now entering December and unlike Lexus, it's never a month to remember for Tony Romo. It's significantly his worst statistical month and the Cowboys are 10-15 in December under Romo compared to 23-5 in November.
Are we really talking about Tony Romo and playoffs? Come on.
5. Andy Dalton
Cowboys, @ Eagles, @ Steelers
Quietly a breakout year for Andy Dalton while everybody else is fixated on the rookie class. Dalton has thrown a little more than two touchdowns per game and has one of the top five weapons in the NFL with A.J. Green.
However, he's 0-3 against the Steelers while completing less than 50% of his passes. It's a bad way to go into your FPO championship game.
Potential Unexpected Difficulty: Tom Brady
I wouldn't bench Tom Brady if he slept with my wife, but be careful with how excited you get for him in the playoffs with games against the Texans and 49ers to begin and then a matchup with the Jaguars in Week 16. Why is that a bad thing? Well, why wouldn't the Patriots end up running it 50 times in that game?
You can't do it, you just can't bench Brady. But you still might lose to the guy that starts Matt Schaub. Or the guy that starts Andy Dalton, who knows, this is fantasy football. All I know is that you're going to lose by 2 points because you started Dustin Keller over Anthony Fasano or something. That's the FPOs for ya.