In all of your Super Bowl party prep/pre-game cocktails don’t forget to set your fantasy playoff starting lineup.
Who should you start this week? Let’s talk about some likelihoods and some individual offense-vs.-defense matchups that will decide the outcomes:
Start Drew Brees over Peyton Manning — Most everybody is telling you to start Peyton Manning. While Manning is the smarter more Hall of Fame-ready quarterback of the two, Brees has the best chance of putting up ridiculous numbers.
It’s doubtful the Saints will get after Manning as well as the Jets did in the first half of the AFC Championship game — or as well as the Saints got after Favre in the NFC game — but protection has to be at least a bit of a concern for the Colts.
The Saints defense has been a very opportunistic one this year, too. Let’s not call Manning a lock for an interception, but Darren Sharper’s presence alone is enough to consider it a probability.
Finally, I’m rooting for the Saints but I think the Colts are a better team and will win in a shootout. I want Brees on my team if the word shootout is being used.
Joseph Addai, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Donald Brown, Mike Bell — When the Colts won Super Bowl XLI, Addai was the fantasy MVP. He caught 10 passes and had more than 100 yards of total offense.
Don’t be surprised if the Colts keep the ball on the ground a bit in an attempt to keep Brees and his big-play receivers off the field. Addai will factor into the passing game as well, making him the top pick.
It’s also worth noting that the Saints — and linebackers Scott Fujita, Jonathan Vilma and Scott Shanle — were very effective against quarterbacks but not as much against running backs during the regular season. They gave up the 10th most fantasy points to running backs.
Thomas is next because he’s got a better chance of getting short yardage touchdowns to go with some between the 20s carries. Bush could end up with some decent rushing/receiving yards on a home run play or two, but he’s not getting the ball around the goal line. The Colts defense — featuring linebackers Phillip Wheeler, Gary Brackett and Clint Session — were middle of the road against running backs.
Note: Lynell Hamilton is questionable with an ankle injury so he won’t be a factor.
Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Pierre Garcon, Devery Henderson, Austin Collie, Robert Meacham — Other than Wayne and Colston, I’m calling this a total crapshoot.
Neither team has a Darrelle Revis or a Nnamdi Asomugha to shut down the other’s top weapon. Jabari Greer will face Wayne and Kelvin Hayden will try to stop Colston.
We should take Wayne and Colston in those matchups, regardless of anything else. But considering how many weapons each team has, Hayden and Greer aren’t going to get a ton of help.
If you’re looking for a wild card, it’s not going to be easy. Garcon, Henderson and Meacham are deep threats. Collie is a serious red zone threat.
Let’s put Garcon first because of how much Manning looks his way, because he’s got a great chance of scoring on a long TD and because we never know who’s listed on the menu as Saints receiver of the day until the game has already started.
Dallas Clark over Jeremy Shockey — This is a no-brainer. Clark is probably the biggest X-Factor in this game.
Who will the Saints cover Clark with? A linebacker can’t keep up with him. They could send safety help, but that’s just going to leave a seam open for Garcon or Wayne. If you put a corner on Clark he’s just going to get pushed around.
Meanwhile, Shockey has played hurt all year and probably only has value if he gets a red zone opportunity.
It’s worth noting that both teams were terribly stingy to tight ends during the regular season.
The Colts were the worst TE matchup in the league, giving up just 3.1 points per game. The Saints gave up just 4.7, the fourth-best mark against tight ends.
Matt Stover over Garrett Hartley — This will be a shootout, but the Colts win and could settle for more field goals.
Saints over Colts — The Colts will play clean and smart, but you should still stick with an opportunistic defense that features Reggie Bush returning kicks.
Check back in between noon and one today as we discuss which players are most likely to set offensive Super Bowl records during XLIV.
So, do any of you have a chance of winning your playoff league this week? Are you starting Manning or Brees?