Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If the NFL Playoffs Started Today (Week 10)

Let me know if this sounds familiar: you are grinding out another fantasy football season. Your team is in the middle of the pack and you are going to need a miracle (such as Matt Leinart playing like he was back at USC) to win your league. You can start looking forward to next season, you can concentrate on your fantasy basketball team (or maybe not), or you can do what I am doing: looking forward to the playoffs. It helps if your team of choice is in the battle for the playoffs. If you are a Dolphin or Colt fan (sorry Miami and Indianapolis), your season will end in seven weeks. It’s time to look at the fantasy postseason playoffs. It’s never too early to start. As such, each Tuesday I’ll check in with the current playoff standings, the potential match ups, and a quick list of top players for your draft.

As things stand after ten weeks (and most teams playing nine games), we have Green Bay and San Francisco looking at byes in the NFC, and Houston and Pittsburgh with the best records in the AFC. Unless the aforementioned Leinart is better than his first six years in the NFL, the Texans seem likely to fall without Matt Schaub. Houston has a bye next week, but only one other team on the schedule (Cincinnati) that is currently in the playoffs. The Falcons and Titans may also give Houston some competition, but Jacksonville, Carolina, and Indianapolis are also on the slate. Maybe they can hold up. I watched the 49ers over the weekend against the Giants and don’t really think they’ll do much damage in the playoffs. San Francisco should still get a bye because of their horrible division rivals, but they are working with a below average quarterback. They will be tested by Baltimore on Thanksgiving and the Steelers in Week 15. Can the Packers go undefeated? They have road games against the Lions and Giants, but both of those teams are deeply flawed and probably can’t take advantage of the Green Bay defense. A Christmas date with the Bears could be a problem. I’d love it if my team were to play the Grinch.

The current wildcard match ups in AFC are the Patriots as the AFC East champion against the Bengals and the Raiders and Ravens. If Chad Ochocinco was still in the NFL, he’d be the focus of the first game. What? He still is playing? With only 11 receptions in nine games, you’ll forgive me for thinking Ochocinco was simply a reality TV person. It would be an interesting game. The Bengals have already won four games on the road and may be able to move the ball on the Patriot defense. New England lost in their first playoff game against the Jets last season, but Tom Brady would still be an early draft pick in Fantasy Postseason leagues. The Ravens would be heavy favorites despite playing at Oakland (and losing to the Seahawks this past week). Oakland would likely have Darren McFadden back and I could see them upsetting the Ravens. I think McFadden would be a nice sleeper pick, although Ray Rice, Arian Foster, and Rashard Mendenhall would all be chosen ahead of him.

In the NFC, the Saints would host the Bears for the second time this season and the Giants and Lions would face off. In Week 2, the Saint defense made mincemeat of the poor Bear offensive line. Jay Cutler was sacked six times and looked very frustrated. The Bear line has improved since then, but the Saints are tough to beat at home. I am not impressed by the Giants. They have a signature win over the Patriots, but the rest of their wins have been over the dregs of the league (and they lost to the Seahawks and Redskins at home). I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cowboys win the division. The bloom is also off the rose for the Lions who have lost three of their last four. Maybe Jim Harbaugh took their soul with his heavy-handed backslap. The Lions get the Packers twice as well as a game at the Superdome, so they could also fall out of the playoffs. Maybe the Falcons could still take their spot. If matched up against the Giants, I still think the Lions would win.

Here is my prospective top ten draft picks:

1. Aaron Rodgers

2. Tom Brady

3. Drew Brees

4. Arian Foster

5. Ben Roethlisberger

6. Ray Rice

7. Frank Gore

8. Rashard Mendenhall

9. Matt Forte

10. Calvin Johnson