2011 Fantasy Football Wrap-Up & Playoff Musings


Another great year of fantasy football is behind us. It's always fun to look at the final stats to find some unexpected fantasy heroes in and around the top 10 at each position. I'm talking about guys like Cam Newton, Marshawn Lynch, Darren Sproles, Reggie Bush, Fred Jackson, Jordy Nelson, Victor Cruz, Laurent Robinson, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. If you had several of these players on your roster, you probably did pretty well in 2011.

Not to toot my own horn (as I prepare to toot my own horn) -- after winning the 2010 FantasyPros accuracy study, I finished second (by a mere .006%) to Yahoo's Scott Pianowski in the 2011 competition, which grew to 67 experts. Our very own Josh Moore finished 4th for the second straight year, so you know you're getting consistently good rankings at 4for4.
In other news, I'll be joining 4for4 full time next season, and my weekly rankings will be hosted here as well. Josh and I haven't figured out the exact logistics, but I'm nonetheless excited about joining forces on a full-time basis.
Anyway, when our fearless leader asked me to put together a few thoughts about the NFL postseason, I wasn't sure what I was going to write about. In fact, I'm still not sure.
But let's start with...


I'm hearing chatter from some circles that Drew Brees should win the MVP award.
Sure, he has more passing yards (5,476 to 4,643) and more touchdowns (46 to 45), but the MVP award is not only stat based. The Packers have more wins (15 to 13) and Aaron Rodgers won the head-to-head matchup back on opening night. 
Still hung up on Brees's stats? Well, how about A-Rod's three rushing TDs, which give him the edge in total touchdowns scored (48 to 47)? What about his superior average yards per attempt (9.2 to 8.3). Heck, if Rodgers had attempted as many passes as Brees did (657), he would have thrown for 6,044 yards. (Hat tip to Alessandro Miglio.) Rodgers also set the record for passer rating for a season (122.5) and threw fewer interceptions (with just six to Brees's 14).
Still not convinced? Let's not forget that the Saints played 10 games indoors this season. In those games, Brees threw for an average 326 yards, 3.4 TDs and 0.6 INTs with a passer rating of 120.8. Terrific numbers, no doubt. But outdoors, he threw for 370 yards, 2.0 TDs and 1.3 INTs for a passer rating of 96.4. While the yardage is impressive, he's clearly not as efficient outdoors.
Compare that to Rodgers, who played just three games indoors (and 12 outdoors). Rodgers averaged 346/2.3/0.0 inside for a passer rating of 126.2. More importantly, he averaged 300/3.2/0.5 outdoors for a passer rating of 121.5. It's easier to throw the ball in a controlled environment and that should be taken into account when comparing the season-long numbers of the two quarterbacks.
In any other year, Brees would be the clear frontrunner to win MVP, but it belongs to Aaron Rodgers this season.
While we're talking about Rodgers/Brees, let's discuss the...


The Lions have a shot to beat the Saints, but with the way the defense played against Matt Flynn and Co. in Week 17, the chances look slim. Brees is on fire right now and while I think the Lions have an offense potent enough to score with the Saints, the Superdome is a very tough place to play. The Lions are not unfamiliar with penalties, and a couple of false starts could force Detroit into an extra punt or two, and that could be the difference in the game.
The Giants seem to be putting it together at the right time and remind me a little of my beloved Packers from late last season. Scary. Eli Manning has the poise and presence in the pocket, while Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are two excellent wideouts. Most importantly, the defense seems to be coming together at the right time. The Falcons are going to have a tough time beating the G-Men on the road and I'm admittedly worried about a potential Packers/Giants game in the Divisional Round.
On the other side of the bracket, I'm not so sure that the Saints will be able to beat the 49ers on the road. There, I said it. Weather seems to be Drew Brees's kryptonite and the 49ers have arguably the best defense in the league, provided Patrick Willis can get fully healthy in the next two weeks. Throw in a few injuries to Mark Ingram (out for the playoffs) and the Saints' WR corps (Lance Moore's hamstring and Robert Meachem's knee) and the New Orleans offense is a little dinged up.
I can't in good conscience pick against my Packers against the Giants or anyone else, so I'll take Green Bay over San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game. A win would provide some measure of revenge since I'm still bitter about the blown non-call on Jerry Rice's fumble in the 1998 playoffs when the 49ers beat the Packers behind "The Catch II" (Steve Young to Terrell Owens). I can really hold a grudge. Grrr.
Now, onto the...


The Steelers are too beat up, Tim Tebow isn't ready, the Texans don't have a QB and the Bengals... well, they're the Bengals
I'd actually like to see Cincy make a run given the rookie seasons turned in by A.J. Green (65-1057-7 in 15 games) and Andy Dalton (3,398 yards, 20 TDs, 13 INTs), but that's probably a pipe dream.
The Ravens have a puncher's chance at beating the Patriots in Foxboro, but the defense isn't quite as stellar as in year's past and I don't think the Baltimore secondary can handle Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. Pressuring Tom Brady will be paramount if the Ravens hope to pull the upset, which they won't.


Packers over Patriots -- and here's why: 1) My neighbor is a die-hard Patriots fan and if New England wins this game I'll never hear the end of it after teaching my 3-year-old to tell him that "Aaron Rodgers is better than Tom Brady" every time he sees him, and 2) the Packers defense, while struggling, still has a lot more talent than the Patriots defense. The game would be a track meet and would likely come down to turnovers -- whoever has the fewest will win. Or maybe an onside kick (or two) will be the difference, I don't know.
Super Bowl Prediction: Packers 77, Patriots 73
So...bet the over.
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