By: Alex Schoenfeld
The first round of the playoffs is here. For those who are lucky enough to still have a heartbeat feast your eyes on the fantasy five.
Dallas @ Cincinnati:
Usually, when discussing anything Bengals, we start with AJ Green. Not this week. Here’s a question for you football buffs: What do Corey Dillon and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have in common? Easy right? Both played for the Patriots. What I bet you didn’t know, is that “The Law Firm” has run for 100+ yards in his past 3 games; making him the first Bengals back since (yep, that’s right) Corey Dillon (circa 1999) to put up such numbers. Can he continue this pace against a porous Cowboys run defense? He’s got my vote. My stat prediction: 26 attempts for 106 yards, 1 TD along with 4 catches for 19 yards.
Keeping with our running back theme, DeMarco Murray had a nice game against Philadelphia last week (who hasn’t?) with 23 attempts for 83 yards and a score. So much for Garrett’s plan to ease him back into a normal workload. Murray is angry. Missing the majority of the season with a bum foot has him mad at the world, so expect hard “hit you before you hit me” type runs. Don’t overthink this one; he’s a top 10 RB play. My stat prediction: 18 attempts for 88 yards and 5 catches for 50 yards and a rec TD.
AJ versus Dez. Green is the better option but I like them both to find the endzone. My stat prediction: AJ: 10 receptions for 115 yards and a TD. DB: 6 Receptions for 77 yards and a TD. Offensively, both of these teams are hitting their stride; finding that “oh so difficult” balance between the run and passing game.
I anticipate sporadic quarterback play in this game. Tony Romo should have the better day of the two, but don’t discount Andy Dalton and his ability to find AJ deep. My prediction: Romo: 23-40 270 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s. Dalton 18-27 230 yards 2 TD’s 1INT.
Chicago @ Minnesota:
Adrian Peterson. Need I say more? This guy is NOT human. If Fox’s robot “Cleatus” actually played on Sunday’s, his number would be 28, his team the Vikings and the name would be Peterson. With Urlacher already declared out for the game (and possibly the remainder of the regular season) expect AP to gash the normally stout Bears defense. This is a do or die game for the Vikings so expect desperation. Stat prediction: 30 attempts for 154 yards and 1 TD along with 4 catches for 27 yards.
With teams focusing more of their defensive strategies to contain Brandon Marshall, we should see opportunity for Matt Forte. Forte is a perfect example of my “law of averages” theory. He has had a solid season, but truly underwhelmed projections until this point. I predict BIG receiving numbers for Forte from this week out. My stat prediction: 18 rush for 70 yards and 8 receptions for 85 yards and 1 TD.
Fantasy favorite Percy Harvin is on IR. We all know his ability, and in the same breath, we know his propensity for injury.This hurts many fantasy teams, but owners can’t say they weren’t warned. Don’t get cute with Jerome Simpson. If there’s any viable receiving option for Minnesota, it’s Rudolph or Jarius Wright. Of course, these are complete lottery tickets, so owners beware. Rudolph has been hot of late however.
We thought the big and physical secondary play of the Seahawks would limit Brandon Marshall. Mark that under the list of “things that DIDN’T happen” last week. He did everything but find the endzone. We know he’s a PPR freak, but the yards came with it this time (165). He cut up the Vikings secondary two weeks ago for a line of 12 catches for 92 yards. I don’t think he will have 17 targets like he did in the previous match-up, but I do expect him to find pay dirt. Stat prediction: 9 receptions for 95 yards and 2 TD’s.
Quarterback play in this game should be lopsided. I like Jay Cutler to keep his playoff push focus up against a susceptible Viking’s pass D. Stat prediction: 21-30 288 yards and 3 TD’s 2INT.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT even sniff Christian Ponder. Over the past seven weeks, he’s thrown for 76 less yards than AP has ran for over that span. He couldn’t take advantage of Green Bay’s vulnerable defense, what makes you think he can produce against arguably the best? Stat prediction: 14-29 215 yards 2 INT’s.
Philadelphia @ Tampa Bay
The secret’s out. Bryce Brown will hurt you. Now that opponents know what he’s capable of, can they stop him? If any team in the league can, it would be the Buccaneers. Their stingy run D only allows a mere 82 yards per game. The only two players in the league than broke the century rushing mark against the Bucs run defense are Adrian Peterson and Alfred Morris. But I still like Brown. Stat Prediction: 18 attempts for 70 yards 1 TD along with 5 catches for 61 yards (plus 1 fumble).
Rookie wall? What rookie wall? Doug Martin has been great this year. Owners who took a chance with him are being rewarded greatly for their intuition. Philadelphia has quit on their season. This means that “they aren’t who we thought they were” players in DeMeco Ryans and Nnamdi Asomugha won’t be risking next year’s health on stopping the “Muscle Hamster.” I think this will be an explosive game for all key pieces in each offense. Stat prediction: 28 attempts 120 yards 1 TD along with 6 catches for 63 yards and 1 TD.
With nothing to lose, I think the Eagles will test out rookie Nick Foles. He has the tools to be a successful NFL QB; size, arm strength, presence etc… With DeSean Jackson out, let’s see if that frees up Jeremy Maclin and possibly Jason Avant. Last time Maclin saw the Bucs, he exploded for 142 yards on 6 catches with 2 TD’s. My stat prediction for Foles: 25-43 277 yards 2 TD’s 3 INT. Stat Prediction for Maclin: 5 receptions 94 yards 1 TD. Avant prediction: 7 receptions 72 yards.
Josh Freeman will have a big day at home. If you need a TE, pick up Dallas Clark (if available still). It seems like their receiving core is finally clicking. I start Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Heck, if you’re desperate, there are worse spot starts than Tiquan Underwood. Nothing like a desperate team facing a demoralized squad at home. Freeman stat prediction: 26-40 311 yards 3 TD’s and 1INT. Clark prediction: 5 receptions 40 yards and 1 TD. Jackson prediction: 11 receptions 122 yards. Mike Williams prediction: 4 receptions 80 yards 1 TD. Underwood prediction: 4 catches 49 yards.
Baltimore @ Washington:
The Ravens were embarrassed. Check that, humiliated by their bitter divisional foe; who I might add was starting an ancient QB (I see you Charlie Batch). How will they respond?
With a banged up Terrell Suggs, who will match the physicality of Alfred Morris? Who will contain Robert Griffin III? If you’re scratching your head over those propositions, trust me, you’re not alone.
I absolutely love Morris in this spot. Those who did their research before the season are reaping the benefits of Alfred’s domination. At home I think he has one of his best games of the season. The traditional defense style of the Ravens is not conducive to stopping the ‘Skins “Pistol” formations. With RG3 opening up lanes, there will be no telling how damaging Morris will be. Prediction: 24 attempts for 143 yards 2 TD’s along with 3 catches for 19 yards.
RG3 will have a day. Pierre Garcon is back in the mix; expect him to be located early and often. These two have nice chemistry for only playing in about 6 games together. Griffin III Stat prediction: 15-21 210 yards 2 TD’s along with 7 rushes for 50 yards. Garcon stat prediction: 9 receptions 82 yards and 1 TD.
In order for Baltimore to hang with Washington, they will HAVE to score. As I’ve noticed all season, even though Ray Rice is considered the focal point of the offense, Joe Flacco dictates whether they sink or swim.
The Redskins defense will have an emotional letdown after a high intensity Monday night game against the Giants. Flacco will throw the ball deep. With DeAngelo Hall shadowing Torrey Smith for the majority of the game, I like Anquan Boldin to work the middle of the field. I also like Dennis Pitta as a top 10 tight end. Flacco stat prediction: 22-38 327 yards 2 TD’s 1 INT. Rice stat prediction: 25 attempts for 94 yards 1 TD along with 6 receptions for 59 yards. Smith stat prediction: 4 receptions 77 yards. Boldin stat prediction:10 receptions 105 yards 1 TD. Pitta stat prediction: 3 receptions 50 yards 1 TD.
New Orleans @ New York Giants:
Big game at Met-Life Stadium. The Giants need this one to keep their heads above water in the division. The Saints are on life support for a wild card spot, one more loss and their season is over.
After one of his worst performances of his career (5 INT’s no TD’s) last week against the Falcons, Drew Brees is aware of the task ahead. He knows that only his best of the season will allow New Orleans to take down the defending champs in their own house. Stat prediction: 29-51 330 yards 2 TD’s 2 INT’s. Brees fights to the end but can’t seal the deal. I don’t think this is the game where Darren Sproles gets his game back. The Giants have a very deep and athletic defensive line that can contain him. Stat prediction: 3 rushes for 20 yards along with 6 receptions for 44 yards. Jimmy Graham will find the endzone. He is always a matchup disaster and will work the middle of the field and red zone effectively. Stat prediction: 8 Receptions 78 yards 2 TD’s.
Despite the loss in D.C. this past Monday, Eli Manning looks as if he’s regained his early season form. The Saints have one of the worst defenses in the league, and playing outside of their dome, I can see Manning doing damage. Keep in mind N.O.’s d-coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s claim to fame is the SuperBowl title in 2008. With the Giants. There will be a familiarity of schemes; which can serve to help Eli audible at the line, as he does so well. Stat Prediction: 28-39 318 yards 3 TD’s 1 INT.
Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Reuben Randel, Martellus Bennett. Giants have weapons. Eli can spread the ball around (especially on this Saints sieve-like defense). Out of this group though, I believe Bennett will outperform his mediocre projections. Bennett stat prediction: 7 receptions 90 yards 1 TD. Nicks has been hobbled the majority of the year, but as we’ve seen in the past, the closer to playoff time the more dynamic play of Hakeem. With Cruz whittling away at trust factor with Eli (leading the league in drops), Hakeem gets a bump in targets. Stat projection: 11 receptions 105 Yards 1 TD. Cruz will be efficient, stat projection: 6 receptions 55 yards 1 TD.
I don’t trust any of the running backs in this game. Obviously, if you have Ahmad Bradshaw, you’re starting him. I think he’ll underwhelm against a terrible rush defense but could find the endzone. Stat prediction: 15 attempts 54 yards 1 TD along with 4 catches for 34 yards. If I had to choose one Saints back, it would be Pierre Thomas, based solely on the fact that I think he’ll have goal line carries. Stat prediction: 13 rushes 68 yards 1 TD along with 3 receptions for 35 yards.