After another wild weekend of football, we are now left with 4 teams. Making up those 4 championship-calibur rosters are some elite fantasy performers. Throughout the course of the week, I will be analyzing the fantasy football players at each position who are most likely to make an impact on this Conference Championship weekend for those of you participating in fantasy football leagues here at FanSaloon.com.
When looking at the quarterback position, it is evident that two players seem to separate themselves from the bunch, while the other two tend to be less consistant. Even though the more unreliable passers are facing the more suspect defenses, I still must give the nod the elite players at the position.
1. Eli Manning – While Tom Brady is perhaps the better quarterback of the two, I give Eli the slight edge because of a slightly better matchup. While San Francisco’s defense has been tumultuous, they simply have not been as good as Baltimore’s. The Ravens defense allowed the 4th fewest passing yards this season, the Niners defense finished 16th. The 49ers have been far more proficient at creating turnovers with 23, which is good for 2nd best in the NFL. At the same time, the Ravens have had an easier time at getting pressure on the quarterback, registering 48 sacks on the year for the 3rd best total of all teams. The most telling statistic to me is the passing touchdowns allowed. While San Fran’s stout defense finished a respectable 6th on the list this season with 20 passing touchdowns allowed, there was no better defense at not allowing scores through the air than that of the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore only allowed an amazing 11 passing touchdowns this season, nearly half of the already impressive 20 touchdowns which the 49’ers gave up. Aside from the matchup, Manning has been in a groove as of late, passing for 607 yards and 6 touchdowns with only 1 interception thus far in the postseason. Look for Eli Manning to continue his career year with another great performance and possibly propel both the Giants and your fantasy football teams to the promise land.
2. Tom Brady – More of a 1A than a 2 on this list, Tom Brady has been arguably the hottest player over his last few games, putting up very impressive numbers. After his incredible 6 touchdown performance against Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, many fantasy owners would probably put him at the top of this list, but you should possibly calm your expectations. If you are anticipating a repeat performance of last week’s rout, you are sorely mistaken. As I said earlier, Baltimore allowed the 4th fewest passing yards in the league this season, as well as the least passing touchdowns of all defenses in the NFL. Even more important than their ability to limit the opposing quarterback’s production is their ability to get to the quarterback. After compiling 48 sacks in the regular season, expect Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and the rest of the Ravens pass rush to get into the backfield and attack Brady early and often this weekend. While Brady should put up a respectable performance in this AFC Championship match-up, beware of Baltimore’s dangerous defense when banking on Brady as your fantasy football quarterback this week.
3. Joe Flacco – This week, Flacco has the opportunity to prove himself against one of the league’s worst pass defenses, the 2nd worst pass defense to be exact. New England has allowed an atrocious 4,703 yards and 26 touchdowns, good for 31st and 22nd in the NFL respectively. For the Ravens to have any chance to take down the Patriots this weekend, Flacco will have to step up in a big way. Even with this seemingly perfect match-up, I am still not “Wacco for Flacco”. After finishing the season a mere 18th in the NFL with an 80.9 passer rating, I am not confident of Flacco’s ability to take advantage of this susceptible secondary. The one notable strength of the Patriots pass defense is their ability to cause interceptions. New England had a whopping 23 interceptions this season, 2nd best in the league. The only thing holding Joe Flacco back from improving as a passer is his decision making, and if he doesn’t improve on that this weekend, the Patriots will take advantage of that. Joe Flacco is the highest upside start at quarterback in fantasy football this weekend; just don’t be surprised if he comes up short.
4. Alex Smith – Clearly the worst choice for fantasy football this week in my opinion is Smith. While he looked great last weekend, I fear his and the 49ers magical season may be coming to an end this weekend. It was as feel good story of sorts to see Alex Smith have a solid showing last week against a weak Saints defense, but that simply cannot be expected again this week. The Giants defense has been red hot as of late. Though finishing 4th worst among NFL defenses in yards allowed this season, just ahead of New Orleans, what sets New York’s defense apart is their seemingly unstoppable pass rush. After taking down the opposing quarterback 48 times this season, 3rd best amongst all teams in the NFL, the Giants defense is primed to attack Alex Smith mercilessly this coming week. The G-Men have also been solid at intercepting the football, tying for 6th best in the league with 20. The key this week for Alex Smith is the success of his running back, Frank Gore. If Gore can succeed in finding holes against Big Blue’s talented defensive line, Alex Smith will have the opportunity to utilize the play action pass. Even if that happens, I simply do not like Smith this week as a fantasy football quarterback.