Playoffs: Uncomfortable Brady, atypical Moss

A team-by-team fantasy review of Sunday’s NFL playoff games:

Patriots

We may have seen the last of a great 10-year dynasty. New England looked slow, out of position and frankly, unenthused to be playing

Tom Brady - Remains uncomfortable in the pocket and still showed effects of his knee surgery, typified by him not running for a score at the 10-yd line when a clear path to the end zone opened up on a scramble. Instead, he overthrew his receiver. Brady should still be considered a top fantasy QB but 2007 looks like 10 years ago.

Randy Moss - Had 5 receptions on 9 targets but his 9.6 avg. is not typical Moss production. He clearly looked uninterested, which doesn’t spell good news heading into next year. More concerning was Brady not looking to him deep. As his teammates walked to congratulate and shoot the breeze with Ravens players, Moss sulked off to the locker room with his helmet on.

Julian Edelman - He filled in for Welker admirably with a 6-44-2 day. He really does look like a carbon copy, tough runner (also returned punts), good hands and was Brady’s top target in clear passing plays and in the red zone. (Faulk also had 8 targets but a few of them were dump offs). I’m sure Welker will regain his starting position when he returns, but Edelman is someone to keep an eye on.

Ben Watson - He was not a factor and it’s becoming clear TE is not a featured position in NE’s offense, at least not with anyone on this roster. Florida’s and Oklahoma’s TEs coming into the draft are athletic and very talented, so if NE picks one of them, they may be a big time watch for next fantasy season. NE clearly needs to get younger and the receiving corps probably needs more playmakers.

Ravens

Today’s story was clearly Ray Rice (22-159-2 and could have had  2 more TDs if he wasn’t taken out for Willis McGahee) and the defense (four turnovers)

Joe Flacco - He may have taken a step backward. He looked timid. With such a big lead Baltimore focused on the running game, but maybe they were keeping the ball out of Flacco’s hands hands by running several times in obvious passing situations on 3rd down. He only had 10 pass attempts. Aside from Rice dump offs and screens (which weren’t called today) Flacco didn’t find a connection with any other receiver.

Todd Heap - What happened to this guy? A decent fantasy play several times this season, Heap became virtually irrelevant in Cam Cameron’s offense Sunday. I’m not sure if he wasn’t open or if Flacco just didn’t look to him. So many of the Ravens’ passing plays are out-patterns and in-routes by WRs. Heap was targeted just once, but they didn’t need him.

Willis McGahee - He somehow remains a viable fantasy play as Baltimore called his number quite a bit in the red zone Sunday. He had 62 yards and a score as the Ravens ran all over the Patriots defense.

WRs - While Derrick Mason had one of the best seasons of his career statistically, he didn’t get a chance to show it Sunday with Flacco’s light workload. Mark Clayton has not lived up to expectations and Mason, who toyed with retirement last offseason, turns 36 this month. I can definitely see Baltimore targeting a WR in the draft. They’ll be too late in the draft to get Dez Bryant but LSU, Illinios and Syracuse have top WRs coming into the draft who may be a Ravens pick.

Cardinals

What a win and such a great game to watch, a fantasy dream with a combined more than 1,000 yards and 11 TDs of offense between the teams. Just about any Arizona WR is a good fantasy play.

Kurt Warner - Father Time is apparently hitting the snooze button, because the QB churned in a 29-379-5 performance. He was accurate, comfortable in the pocket and commanded the offense. Very impressive and  he spread the ball around, targeting seven different players (6 at least three times each).

Beanie Wells - He is looking more and more like the No. 1 guy for next year, a strong runner with the potential to break one off (had a 50-yard gallop). Only drawback is he gets no action in the passing game and Hightower remains the No. 1 guy at the goal line. His day, 14-91 with 6-yd average.

Larry Fitzgerald - What can I say that hasn’t been reported, talked about or blogged. In my mind, he is the best fantasy WR, today produced 6-82-2. You can’t guard him and the best thing is he is by far the No. 1 target in the red zone regardless of the situation, even first and goal.

Early Doucet - Could have been his breakout game if you put any weight on playoff performances. Today he had 6-77-2 game and looked very much like Anquan Boldin, strong and physical after the catch. He has a track record of producing in college (LSU), so maybe just getting comfortable in the offense is a stepping stone. Warning though, this was by far the best game of his career, but with Boldin probably on the way out, he could be next year’s WR3 in a high octane offense.

Steve Breaston - Simply athletic, returns punts and is a threat to go the distance on any catch along the sideline. Today was 7-125-1. I can see him stepping up next year to be a full-time starter and solid WR2 option for fantasy owners – if Warner sticks around.

Warner’s leadership and command of the offense makes this machine go.
If he leaves, so does all of Arizona’s fantasy value outside of Fitzgerald.

Green Bay

If only they could have taken care of the ball in the first quarter? But if they did, we probably wouldn’t have had such a great highlight-filled game. Clearly the defense fell apart, and their offensive line needs adjustment.

Aaron Rodgers - Actually broke a Favre record (playoff performance 28-422-4). He displayed great mental toughness rebounding from a rough start and has a gun of an arm, although he made several silly throws that shouldn’t have been picked. Next year he may end up with more INTs unless he settles down and doesn’t try to do too much. I know circumstances of the game forced him to do a lot, but he pressed several times through the season (i.e. Minnesota matchups, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh). He is definitely a top 5 fantasy QB, however.

Ryan Grant - Looked solid, ran hard and gained some yards in chunks before GB abandoned the running attack to catch up in the game (11-65 with 5.9 avg.). He still drops too many passes to be a solid receiving threat, although GB likes to use him in screens. He has another 1-2 good years in him and with no clear competition in the backfield, he will remain No. 1.

Green Bay may look to running back in the draft, a smaller, shifty back, so that will be something to keep an eye on for a good sleeper next year. C.J. Spiller, Jahvid Best are good options as is Joe McKnight from USC, who I consider a less reliable Reggie Bush-type.

Donald Driver - Another ageless wonder. Driver is clearly Rodgers go-to guy and still has the burst to bust some runs-after-the catch. I see him having one more solid year.

Greg Jennings - He remains a mystery to me. Today, 8-130-1, so he once again showed his big play ability and was open for what would’ve been a game-winning 80-yard TD catch in OT, had Rodgers not overthrown him. But too often this season, he disappeared. My take: Once Driver retires, Jennings will get more consistent looks from Rodgers, until then Jennings remains that “let’s take a shot deep” guy who you can’t rely on in the fantasy world.

JerMichael Finley – The rookie TE continues to grow. Today, 6-159, and showed how strong he was in battling one-on-one for a deep 40-50 something yard catch. GB regularly lined him up out wide as a WR, isolated on a CB, showing their confidence in him as a go-to guy. If he can stay healthy, he could have a Vernon Davis breakout next year.

James Jones – Had a nice game (3-50-1). I believe his performance was more a factor of the game turning into an offensive shootout and less on GB making him a part of their offense. He really only had one standout game this season.

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