The 2009-2010 NFL playoffs has featured plenty of pass-happy teams. The good news is that 3 of the 4 remaining teams have an abundance of fantasy-relevant QB’s, WR’s, and TE’s. The bad news is that one of this weekend’s two matchups offers a much better situation than the other.
Sunday 3:00 EST
New York Jets @ Indianapolis
As you may have guessed, the AFC matchup is the weaker of the two games in terms of pass offense. This is due entirely to the Jets’ presence on both sides of the ball. As we’ve cautioned all season, the Colts’ offense is a must-play even against the toughest defenses, but the fact remains, this is not a good matchup if you need huge numbers out of Indy.
The Jets offense has regressed in fantasy as it has progressed in real life. As Mark Sanchez was reined in further and further each week, his mistakes went down, but the opportunity for offensive production went down with it. It’s a fine recipe for winning games with (or in spite of) a rookie QB, but it doesn’t produce yardage or touchdowns. If you’re looking for a silver lining here, it’s that Sanchez may be forced to throw more often if the Colts take an early lead. That said, if Sanchez throws more often, you’re faced with the original problem, which is the likelihood of multiple turnovers. It’s still difficult to recommend anyone on this offense. Cotchery’s no sure thing to break 50 yards, and Keller is the weakest of the 4 remaining TE’s.
NYJ: Sanchez 0, Cotchery -1, Edwards -1, Keller -1
The interesting twist for the Indy offense is whether Darrelle Revis will primarily cover Reggie Wayne (as he was used to cover #1 receivers most of the season), or if he will be moved around the field depending on the defensive package (as he did last week against the Chargers). There are arguments to be made on both sides. The Jets used Revis to shut down #1 WR’s all year, so it could be argued that last week was an aberration, something designed specifically for the Chargers’ offense. On the other hand, it could be argued that the Colts in some ways resemble the Chargers — they have a clear #1 WR, but they also feature a dominant receiving TE, and at least 2 reasonable talented complementary WR’s. For now, my judgment is that Dallas Clark is a safer option than Wayne, if only because of the possibilities: Revis could cover (and severely limit) Reggie Wayne all game, but it’s unlikely that the Jets defense will be able to shut down Dallas Clark. With Revis switching coverage last week, Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates were neck and neck in catches and yardage. That’s not to say Wayne is a terrible option, but if one of the two is going be limited, I’d bet it’s Wayne and not Clark.
IND: Manning -1, Wayne -1, Clark 0, Garcon -1, Collie -1
Sunday 6:40 EST
Minnesota @ New Orleans
Now this is a game you can feel good about. Both pass offenses are clicking, producing yardage and (especially) touchdowns. Neither pass defense is particularly stout — even if it looks like they “shut down” the opposing offenses last week, other factors (Romo’s inability to complete throws downfield under pressure, Warner’s injury and its effect on his accuracy and arm strength) played a role in the suppressed totals.
Sidney Rice is clearly the highlight of the Vikings receiving corps, and he continues to physically dominate opposing corners. On 2 of his long catches last week, Rice didn’t even have much separation from the corner, but Favre put it within reach and Rice outpositioned the covering defender. The Saints secondary is a “bend don’t break” kind of unit, and while Darren Sharper has received plenty of (deserved) credit for his interceptions, he doesn’t cover pass routes particularly well and will give up yardage when he gambles. Harvin and Shiancoe were disappointments last week as they each caught just 1 pass (and while Shiancoe’s was a touchdown, it happened after the game was already in hand). Harvin worries me more than Shiancoe — we know that the TE is a favorite of Favre’s from 25-30 yards in, and that won’t change.
MIN: Favre +1, Rice +1, Shiancoe +1, Berrian, Harvin
I’m just ever so slightly more concerned about the Saints offense in this game. The Vikings’ front 7 consistently tore through the Cowboy’s pass protection. I trust Brees to make smart decisions with the ball, but if he gets hurried, the Saints may not have time to set up their downfield shots. Still, it’s a minor quibble. The bigger issue in terms of fantasy is why Meachem disappeared last week. Meachem did break free and was targeted downfield once, but Brees overthrew him. The Saints also “lost” a possession from Reggie Bush’s punt return TD, so that’s at least one drive in which Meachem could have been targeted a few more times. Still, we have to now consider Meachem a co- #2 WR (along with Devery Henderson, who had a gorgeous 44-yard TD on a flea-flicker) after Colston. Meachem had an amazing run of TD’s during the season, but that doesn’t help you this week, especially since he may have hurt his ankle during last week’s game. Now that I’ve written those words publicly, Meachem will probably leapfrog Henderson in production again, but that’s the nature of the Saints offense. I don’t think Shockey will match Witten’s numbers (10-98) from last week, but he may grab a few more yards than usual.
NO: Brees 0, Colston 0, Meachem -1, Henderson +1, Shockey +1